Canadian Challenge to Trump’s Solar Tariff

By Sean Vandehey


Last month when the Trump Administration revealed their new 30% tariff on solar panel imports into the US, there was debate on whether the small number of jobs to be saved in domestic manufacturing were going to be enough to counteract the significant blow this would deal to the rest of the domestic solar industry.  Per the New York Times, “more than 260,000 Americans are employed in the [solar] sector, but fewer than 2,000 of those employed in the United States are manufacturing solar cells and modules, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.”  
At solar farms across the US, far more American labor takes the form of installation of panels and manufacturing of the steel racks that angle them into the sun.  Now the cost of one of their key materials is going up by 30% next year, a spike in costs that risks making the entire solar industry non-competitive in the US energy market.
The efficacy of Trump’s tariff plan aside, now a handful of Canadian solar panel manufacturers are claiming that Trump’s tariff is also a violation of NAFTA, and are taking the matter up in US courts.  Citing the high burden of proof required to impose tariffs on NAFTA member nations, and claiming that the Trump Administration has failed to prove that Canadian imports are harmful to the US industry, they are seeking an injunction against enforcement of the new tariff.  
Joining Canada in filing suit in the US Court of International Trade, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore have requested consultations with the WTO, the first step in dispute resolution for international trade matters, and likely a prelude to further lawsuits and direct challenges to the tariff.
You've probably seen solar panels cropping up on rooftops around your neighborhood, at bus stops or transit stations, possibly even a larger scale solar installation.  With this new tariff, that trend will slow significantly, potentially with long-term consequences for investment and expansion.  If you’d like to add your voice to the chorus speaking out against the tariffs, contact your Senator or Representative and ask them to take action in favor of all our solar industry workers.