Trump slaps tariffs on imported solar panels, washing machines

Most imported solar modules will face an immediate tariff of 30 percent, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Trump slaps tariffs on imported solar panels, washing machines

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Monday approved tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines in a bid to help US manufacturers.
The Republican’s decision followed recommendations for tariffs by the US International Trade Commission.
“The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement announcing the decision.
Most imported solar modules will face an immediate tariff of 30 percent, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years. For large residential washing machines, tariffs will start at up to 50 percent and phase out after three years.
China accused Trump of jeopardizing the multilateral trading system by taking action on complaints under US law instead of through the World Trade Organization.
“The US side once again abused its trade remedy measures,” said a Commerce Ministry statement. “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction with this.”
Mexico said Trump’s decision not to exclude it from the measures was “regrettable.”
“Mexico will use all available legal resources in response to the US decision to apply protections on Mexican washing machines and solar panels,” its Economy Department said in a statement.
The US solar industry was split over the trade barriers.
The tariffs were sought last year by Suniva, which filed for bankruptcy protection in April, and the US subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld.
They said that a nearly 500 percent increase in imported solar panels over five years led to a ruinous price collapse. Nearly 30 US solar-manufacturing facilities had closed in the past five years, they said, as China plotted to flood the global market with cheap products to weaken US manufacturing.
Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach called tariffs “a step forward for this high-tech solar-manufacturing industry we pioneered right here in America.”
However, solar installers and manufacturers of other equipment used to run solar-power systems opposed tariffs, which they said will raise their prices and hurt demand for the renewable energy.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents installation companies, said billions of dollars of solar investment will be delayed or canceled, leading to the loss of 23,000 jobs this year.
Mark Bortman, founder of Exact Solar in Philadelphia, said the prospect of tariffs, since the trade commission recommended them in October, had already caused him to delay hiring and expansion plans.
“Solar is really just starting to take off because it is truly a win-win-win situation” for consumers, workers and the environment, he said. “Tariffs would really be shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The case for tariffs on washing machines was pushed by Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool Corp. The company’s chairman, Jeff Fettig, said tariffs on imported machines would create new manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.
“This is a victory for American workers and consumers alike,” Fettig said. “By enforcing our existing trade laws, President Trump has ensured American workers will compete on a level playing field with their foreign counterparts.”
But US Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, said Republicans need to understand that tariffs are a tax on consumers.
“Moms and dads shopping on a budget for a new washing machine will pay for this — not big companies,” Sasse said in a statement.
Suniva, SolarWorld and Whirlpool were helped by a 1974 trade law that lets companies seek trade protection if they can show damage from a rise in imports.
Up to certain levels, imports of solar cells will be exempt from the tariff, while the first 1.2 million imported large washing machines will get a lower tariff, peaking at 20 percent.
Congress has no authority to change or veto Trump’s decision. Countries affected by the decision can appeal to the World Trade Organization.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.