President Trump has just been handed two opportunities to impose new trade barriers. By Jan. 12, 2018, he must decide whether to impose “safeguard” tariffs or quotas on $8.5 billion in imports of solar panels. By Feb. 3, he will make the same call regarding $1.8 billion in imports of washing machines.
This is a pivotal moment for U.S. trade relationships. If Trump imposes new tariffs, there could be a tsunami of demands for protection against imports of hundreds of other products. Trade barriers on solar panels and washers also would probably lead to costs for the U.S. economy, a slowing of efforts at climate mitigation, and retaliation by trading partners.
There are already tariffs on solar panels and washing machines
The key feature shared by the solar panel and washer cases is that the United States already imposes special tariffs on these products, but limits these tariffs to only a couple of foreign source countries. In solar, the United States imposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports from China beginning in 2011 and Taiwan in 2014. The problem for the struggling U.S. industry is that there was a surge of new solar imports from Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.
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