What may have influenced the decision was a supplemental report the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) provided Trump earlier this month summarizing that China contradicted its commitments to the World Trade Organization by taking advantage of U.S. government programs meant to encourage renewable energy consumption.
Today's tariff decision also impacts large residential washing machines, with USA manufacturers having previously called for "relief against unfair trade practices" after cheaper imports from China, South Korea, and Mexico. Solar cells would follow the same phase-down but would be exempt entirely from tariffs for the first 2.5 gigawatts of imports.
The ITC found that imports of large residential washers increased "steadily" from 2012 to 2016, and that domestic producers' financial performance "declined precipitously".
"This is a bad day for the U.S.", Nicolaou said in a statement. No specific word yet as to whether crystalline silicon panels made in certain countries will be excluded from the tariffs.
Americans could ultimately pay the price of the solar tariffs, Alden noted. The investigation resulted from US solar panel manufacturer Suniva which, in April 2017, declared bankruptcy and petitioned the International Trade Commission, claiming it could not compete with cheap solar cells imported from China.
On Monday, the Trump administration revealed the highly anticipated - and, for many industry stakeholders, feared - determination on the Section 201 trade case launched by Suniva and SolarWorld Americas. (Notably, SolarWorld has a German parent and Suniva is majority owned by a Chinese company, which opposed the Section 201 petition.) The co-petitioners claimed the imposition of an "effective remedy" would salvage the remaining US manufacturing capacity and lead to the creation of over 100,000 jobs across all segments in the industry. In a statement, Suniva thanked Trump.
South Korea and Mexico are the biggest losers from the washing machine tariffs.
Samsung and LG have objected to rulings by the International Trade Commission and the US trade representative.
"We are very disappointed in this misguided decision, which far exceeds what the (ITC) recommended", LG said. After that, it goes up to 50%.
Whirlpool said the Trump administration's action would result in more manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Sunrun said that while the decision lifts "a cloud of uncertainty", it runs counter to "consumers, bipartisan elected officials, many military personnel, and the 99 per cent of American solar workers whom this tariff will harm in the coming years".
"If you're an industry that is finding pressure from imports causing you difficulty, come to Uncle Trump, he'll take care of you", Hufbauer said.