US threatens to raise taxes on solar panel imports to protect its own renewable companies

US complains competitors have responded to import restrictions on China by shifting production to third countries, leading to American job losses and bankruptcies

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The Independent US

The United States is considering imposing tariffs on imports of solar panels to protect its domestic industry.

The US formally informed the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that it may impose the emergency “safeguards” in a petition. 

A notice circulated by the WTO committee on safeguards at the request of the US said: “The petition alleges that, in absolute terms, the quantity and value of imports of [solar] cells and modules have increased over the last five years. 

“The value of imports rose from $5.1bn in 2012 to $8.3bn in 2016, an increase of 62.8 per cent. 

“The petition alleges that increasing imports have taken market share from domestic producers and have led to bankruptcies, plant shutdowns, lay-offs, and a severe deterioration of the financial performance of the domestic industry.

“The petition alleges that 1,200 manufacturing jobs in the United States have been lost and wages have fallen by 27 per cent from 2012-16.”

The American solar company Suniva Inc, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2017, initiated the process of looking into imposing the tariffs, the notice added.

The US also said that its domestic industry had not foreseen companies in China would move production to other countries to get around import restrictions.

“Foreign producers, in response to the various anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders that were imposed on imports from China and Chinese Taipei, have opened new production facilities in third countries,” the petition claimed.

While Donald Trump has made great play of his plans to reinvigorate the American coal industry, solar has become much more important in terms of the number of jobs.

Solar energy employed 374,000 people in the US in 2015-16 – more than the combined total for coal, oil and gas of 187,117.

The US President’s tendency towards protectionism has caused concern about disruption to global trade, a fear that has caused the dollar to fall in the past.