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.


US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

Updated 24 May 2019
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US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

  • Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said

LONDON: The value of joint Saudi-US contracts rose to $13 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to a business council report.

That marked the highest value of awarded contracts since the first quarter of 2015, the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council said.

The value of contracts awarded during the first quarter amounted to about half of the total value in all of last year, it added.

The contracts “included many vital projects, notably in the oil, gas, water and transport sectors,” Abdallah Jum’ah, the co-chair of the council, was reported as saying by Asharq Al-Awsat.

Energy was the top sector, with $3.1 billion of the value of contracts awarded, with many struck by Saudi Aramco. 

Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said.

The construction sector also looks set for a recovery after many projects were put on hold due to the oil-price crash.

“If the pace of awarding construction contracts witnessed during the first quarter of 2019 continues for the rest of the year, the index of awarding construction contracts may return to the range we witnessed before the canceling and postponing of mega projects due to lower oil revenue,” the council said.