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Trump just screwed renewables. He may have also started a trade war.

Tariffs will raise prices and "result in 23,000 job losses."
Getty Images

Donald Trump announced import tariffs on solar panels Monday, part of his nationalist "America First" agenda and another blow to environmentalism from an administration bent on resuscitating fossil fuel production.

The president said all solar panels made outside the U.S. will have a 30 percent duty, which decreases by 5 percent every year for four years.

The move will likely hinder a thriving renewable energy sector that heavily relies on parts manufactured abroad. Although some U.S. manufacturers will directly benefit from Trump handicapping international competition, the Solar Energy Industries Association said the tariffs would raise prices and result in 23,000 job losses this year across the industry.


Trump also imposed heavy duties on washing machine imports, with the first 1.2 million large residential units hit with a 20 percent tariff, followed by a 50 percent tariff on imports above that number.

Trump has talked about imposing tariffs from before he took office, promising to protect the U.S. economy from other countries “making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

The tax on solar panels were smaller than many in the the U.S. solar industry expected, a sentiment echoed in the boardroom of China’s biggest panel maker, JinkoSolar.

Although Asian washing machine makers, such as Samsung, LG and Panasonic, will decry the move, U.S. manufacturer Whirlpool, which has campaigned for a tax on imports, celebrated Monday. “This announcement caps nearly a decade of litigation and will result in new manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee," chairman Jeff Fettig said in a statement.

The company immediately announced it would hire 200 more people.

Asian governments were less enthused. Officials in Seoul said they would complain to the World Trade Organization, calling the tariffs “excessive” and “regrettable.” Beijing was more restrained, but said the duties were a “misuse” of trade measures.

The concern across Asian is whether Trump’s tariffs are the beginning of a broader trend of protectionism, one that will force Asian governments, particularly China, to react in kind.

U.S. officials said Monday more taxes were likely, with imports of steel and aluminum possibly subject to similar duties in the coming months. The White House could also impose more stringent tariffs on Chinese goods pending the results of a probe into Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property.

Cover image: An array of solar panels at Peter Michael Winery, located at the base of Mount St. Helena in Knights Valley, is viewed on August 24, 2017, near Healdsburg, California. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)