President Donald Trump signed a Section 201 trade action Tuesday afternoon that places a 30 percent tariff on imported photovoltaic solar cells. The president said the executive action is intended to protect American jobs and American workers.
"Our companies have been decimated, and those companies are going to be coming back strong," Trump said as he signed the proclamation. "So this is panels and products — generally, solar. Potentially great industry in this country, but now we’ll be making it in the United States."
The move brings an end to several months of lobbying against tariffs by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which determined tariffs would actually hurt industry jobs.
“It’s been a long, long nine months,” SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a conference call. “We are not happy with this decision. We think that it is not the right move for the U.S. economy. It’s not the right move for U.S. energy security. It’s not even the right move for U.S. manufacturing. And it’s certainly not the right move for 23,000 American workers who we think are likely to lose their jobs this year.”
Market research firm IHS Markit arrived at the jobs loss figure by estimating the decline in demand for U.S. produced panales at increased prices the 30 percent tariff would produce. A tool designed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory was used to determine the final industry employment downturn. including positions in manufacturing, development, installment, engineering and construction. SEIA put a human face on the numbers by bringing in companies and solar workers to trade case proceedings.
The tariffs were the result of a petition filed by solar panel manufacturers Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld with the International Trade Commission charging the U.S. solar panel market was being flooded by cheap foreign imports from Asia.
When the petition was filed, SolarWorld and Suniva were asking for a 78-cent per watt minimum import price plus a 40-cent tariff. Hopper counts the more restrained 30 percent tariff as a small victory for solar manufacturers. But SolarWorld Americas President and CEO Juergen Stein is not sure the solar cell import tax goes far enough for his company.
“We are still reviewing these remedies, and are hopeful they will be enough to address the import surge and to rebuild solar manufacturing in the United States. We will work with the U.S. government to implement these remedies, including future negotiations, in the strongest way possible to benefit solar manufacturing and its thousands of American workers to ensure that U.S. solar manufacturing is world-class competitive for the long term,” Stein said in a statement.
SEIA is also looking at the long term and expects significant job losses throughout the tariff’s four-year duration. The association is preparing to further document how the tariff will impact the burgeoning industry.