Trump slaps tariffs on foreign solar panels and washing machines

The Trump administration is imposing tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.The announcement ma...

Posted: Jan 23, 2018 9:07 AM
Updated: Jan 23, 2018 9:07 AM

The Trump administration is imposing tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.

The announcement marks President Trump's first major trade action of 2018 and follows his campaign promise to get tough on America's trading partners.

A tariff, or tax, of 30% will be applied to imported solar panels, most of which come from China. Tariffs will begin at 20% on large residential washing machines, according to the announcement Monday from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

"The President's action makes clear again that the Trump Administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard," Lighthizer said in a statement.

Related: China blasts Trump's new trade tariffs

The decision comes after the independent U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that imports of solar panels and washers had hurt American companies. Tariffs will be in place for three years and will taper down.

Alan Deardorff, a trade expert at the University of Michigan, said these temporary tariffs are meant to provide "breathing room" for industries trying to adjust to a surge in foreign competition.

Trump's tariffs also carry some symbolism: Lighthizer's team resumes NAFTA negotiations on Tuesday with its counterparts from Mexico and Canada. Later this week, Trump himself is expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an event for global elites who promote free trade and oppose protectionist measures like tariffs.

Lighthizer also recently started to renegotiate a trade agreement between South Korea and the United States that he and Trump blame for increasing the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea since 2012.

In these two cases, the Trump administration invoked a trade law from 1974 that was last used in 2001. The law allowed Trump to raise tariffs as high as he wanted.

"The administration could have gone well beyond what the ITC recommended and imposed far more crippling tariffs," said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "This will do some harm to solar installation, but it's not going to shut down the industry."

The solar panel tariff is a blow to China, the primary country from which the U.S. imports solar panels. But it also could put some U.S. jobs at risk. Most of the American jobs related to solar panels involve installation, not manufacturing.

Related: Solar panels: A fight with China that Trump may want to avoid

Overall, about 260,000 Americans work in the solar industry, up 24% from 2015, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

A separate advocacy organization, the Solar Energy Industries Association, warned before the tariffs were announced that such an action would put 48,000 to 63,000 American solar industry workers out of a job this year.

Industry advocates lambasted the tariff.

"This reckless decision will threaten tens of thousands of American jobs and hurt our climate," Howard Crystal, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit based in Arizona, said in a statement.

The American Council on Renewable Energy said the tariff would cause electricity prices to rise.

U.S. solar panel manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld filed a petition last year with the ITC to investigate the sale of solar panels marketed well below typical U.S. prices. The practice is known as "dumping." In a statement, Suniva thanked Trump.

Americans could ultimately pay the price of the solar tariffs, Alden noted.

"If you were thinking about installing solar in your house, it's going to become a little less attractive...the cost of solar installation will go up a bit," says Alden. He added: "In all likelihood this will be a net jobs negative."

Prices of washing machines could soon go up for Americans, too.

South Korea and Mexico are the biggest losers from the washing machine tariffs. Those countries export the bulk of washers to the United States. Much of the production in the two countries is under the umbrella of South Korean giants Samsung and LG.

In a statement, Samsung said consumers will pay more for washing machines. It noted that it has hired 600 workers at a new plant in South Carolina to make washing machines. LG also added that it was disappointed in what it called a "misguided decision" by Trump.

For the first 1.2 million washers imported to the United States, the tariff will be 20%. After that, it goes up to 50%.

"Anybody who is thinking about buying a washing machine should do it right away," said Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "The washing machine prices will probably be fully reflected in a couple months."

American washing machine maker Whirlpool had filed a petition going back to 2011, accusing LG and Samsung of selling their washers at prices below the average in the U.S. market.

Whirlpool said the Trump administration's action would result in more manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.

"This is a victory for American workers and consumers alike," Whirlpool Chairman Jeff Fettig said in a statement.

The tariffs may serve as a harbinger for other upcoming trade decisions. Trump has less than 90 days to decide whether to apply tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, not to mention whether he will withdraw the United States from NAFTA.

Experts said Trump's message to other American companies looking for help against foreign competitors is clear.

"If you're an industry that is finding pressure from imports causing you difficulty, come to Uncle Trump, he'll take care of you," Hufbauer said.

--CNNMoney's Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
Lowndes6261144
Lamar610284
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Washington5279132
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Oktibbeha455297
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Marshall4267100
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Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Grenada254882
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Adams245882
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Attala213273
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Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
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Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
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