Last month, the U.S. International Trade Commission recommended that President Trump implement new tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. Cells are the components of solar modules, or panels, that produce electricity.
The recommendation was made after two U.S. makers of solar panels, Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas Inc., petitioned the commission for tariff relief. Those companies are hoping to avoid the fate of the many U.S. producers of solar products that have been driven out of business by low-cost imports from China, the world’s leading solar manufacturer.
Jeffrey Ball, scholar-in-residence at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, and the former environment editor of The Wall Street Journal, warns of the damage tariffs could do. Terence P. Stewart, managing partner of the Stewart & Stewart law offices in Washington, D.C., with 38 years of experience in trade cases, says tariffs are needed to save the U.S. solar industry.
YES: They Could Impede Demand and Bring Retaliatory Tariffs.
By Jeffrey Ball
Solar power is undergoing a stunning revolution, plummeting in price and surging in popularity. That price drop is due partly to technology, partly to government subsidies and mostly to the efficiencies of globalization. The surest way to encourage solar’s global growth is to let that globalization proceed—not to block it with tariffs.
Tariffs already have hurt solar in the U.S., and more tariffs would do more damage.
The U.S. government has ruled repeatedly that China’s solar manufacturers are selling products in the U.S. at prices so low—made possible by government subsidies so high—that they violate trade rules. So, as global solar costs tumble, driven largely by manufacturing scale in China, the U.S. has built a tariff wall against Chinese solar imports.