On January 22nd, President Trump imposed new “safeguard” tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines, which will be in place for the next three years before tapering downward. For the renewable energy industry, this is another major blow from this administration. Solar panels, most of which currently come from China will have an additional tariff rate of 30% imposed. Notably, there are already more than 150 other U.S. trade measures in place against various Chinese products. This new measure threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply chain.
Trump has also imposed a tariff of 20% on imported washing machines. This is the first use of safeguard tariffs by the United States since 2002 when President Bush used them to restrict steel imports. This decision comes on the heels of a determination by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that imports of these goods had injured domestic producers.
While many have seen the action as a necessary means of protecting American manufacturers, members of the South Korean government have harshly criticized the move and signaled a willingness to formally air their grievances before the World Trade Organization (WTO). Significantly, the 2002 safeguard tariffs imposed by the Bush Administration were ultimately withdrawn after an adverse ruling at the WTO put the United States under the threat of retaliation.