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Trump missed target with solar tariffs, critics say

Opponents of a 30 percent duty say most of the U.S. solar jobs are in sales and installation, not manufacturing.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Trump missed target with solar tariffs, critics say
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is among the handful of critics who say the Trump administration missed the target with new tariffs on solar power goods. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- After the U.S. president put his signature on new tariffs for imported solar products, more voices emerged to say the decision was a job killer.

President Donald Trump signed off on measures imposing a 30 percent duty on imported solar products following review and recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission. In signing the proclamation, Trump said he was committed to backing U.S. companies that were "very badly hurt" by subsidized solar products.

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Solar power, the president said, is a "potentially great industry" that could create "a lot of jobs."

Before the signing, the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group representing the interests of the solar power industry in the United States, said only a few thousand workers were actually employed making solar panels and the tariffs would eliminate, not create jobs. The group's president, Abigail Ross Hopper, said the ITC case actually catered to foreign-owned companies.

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The ITC took up the case amid complaints from Suniva, a Chinese-owned company with U.S. manufacturing centers, and SolarWorld, whose parent is in Germany, that cheap solar components from Asia made the U.S. sector less competitive.

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Suniva went bankrupt last year. Juergen Stein, the CEO and president of SolarWorld Americas, said in a statement the decision would "rebuild solar manufacturing in the United States."

But U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Trump's signature represented an assault on the U.S. renewable energy sector. By her account, most of the solar jobs in the country were in installation and sales, not manufacturing.

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"Instead of fostering that growth, the solar industry expects these tariffs will cost 23,000 American jobs in the first year alone," she said in a statement. "This is particularly troubling in California, where more than a third of solar jobs are located."

California almost always goes to a Democratic presidential candidate. In Nevada, which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won last year, the Nevada Conservation League said too that most of the 8,400 state workers in the solar industry were employed as installers, not manufacturers.

"While we fully support a strong U.S. solar manufacturing industry, last night's decision was shortsighted and could cost jobs and economic growth in Nevada," its executive director, Andy Maggi, said in an emailed statement.

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