By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed off on two trade actions that impose steep tariffs on foreign-made solar panels and washing machines.
The move comes after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced a day prior the results of a study into unfair trade practices by foreign manufacturers, particularly in East Asia. The study said that South Korean appliance manufacturers LG and Samsung have flooded the U.S. washing machine market over the past few years. Chinese companies dominate the market for solar cells.
The new order imposes a 30 percent tariff on solar panels imported into the U.S. and a 50 percent tariff on imported washing machines.
"You're going to have people getting good jobs again, and they'll be making more product again," Trump said as he was signing. "It's been a long time."
The solar panel tariff was sharply criticized by many environmentalists as an attempt to stifle the quickly growing solar energy market. Solar energy has boomed in the U.S. because the panels have become so inexpensive, but an increase in prices could snuff out growth, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) suggested.
The SEIA said the tariff would result in the loss of some 23,000 American jobs in 2018 due to sluggish growth. The group says there are more U.S. jobs in installing solar panels, maintenance and building related components than in the actual manufacture of solar panels, and it is these jobs that will be deeply impacted.
“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.
The tariffs were also disparaged by Republicans like Senators Ben Sasse and John McCain, who tweeted Tuesday that the tariffs amounted to “nothing more than a tax on consumers”.