President Joe Biden has waived tariffs on solar panels from four Southeast Asian countries: Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The waiver will stay for two years, in a move that is meant to help rejuvenate solar adoption across the United States. The president’s action invokes the Defense Production Act, which is meant to support local solar panel manufacturing.
Recently, there have been reports of declining solar uptake and freezing of solar projects across the country. The slowdown in solar uptake negatively impacts President Biden’s promise to fight climate change. An investigation in March found that the leading solar plants in the country have to cut back on their planned projects by up to 46% in the next two years because of supply chain issues. The directive by the president should help these companies get back on track.
However, the tariff waiver report has not been well received by U.S.-based solar producers. The manufacturers say that the removal of tariffs will make it easier for China’s state-subsidized solar companies to have access to the U.S. market at the expense of local companies. Even before the issue of the tariff waiver, there had been complaints about the four countries for their involvement in helping Chinese products dodge U.S. tariffs. A California solar company has filed a complaint with Commerce about the unfair competition that would ensue.
“President Biden is significantly interfering in Commerce’s quasi-judicial process,” said Mamun Rashid, CEO of Auxin Solar, which filed the complaint. “By taking this unprecedented – and potentially illegal – action, (Biden) has opened the door wide for Chinese-funded special interests to defeat the fair application of U.S. trade law,” Rashid said in a statement.
The U.S. solar industry is largely consumer-based, with manufacturing only taking a smaller portion. The jobs concentrated in the industry are based on project development, installation, and the construction industry. However, there is proposed legislation in Congress that would encourage local manufacturing.
According to Heather Zichal, chief executive of the American Clean Power Association, Biden’s announcement would “rejuvenate the construction and domestic manufacturing of solar power by restoring predictability and business certainty.” He argues that the move will also give local manufacturers time to ramp up their production.
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