Americans are accustomed to taking a lot of things for granted. One of those things is trade. Americans expect to access a wide selection of goods from other countries. We expect U.S. companies who identify customers elsewhere will be able to send some of their products overseas. We also take for granted that U.S. trade laws are there to help facilitate trade, to keep it running smoothly and to penalize those who attempt to cheat and export goods to our country unfairly and in violation of international trade norms.
What we don’t expect is for American companies to use our trade laws to bail themselves out of a bind, regardless of what it does to other American companies or American consumers. But unfortunately, two small solar companies appear willing to do just that, whatever the consequences may be for others.
The companies in question are Suniva and SolarWorld, two bankrupt makers of solar cells and modules, the basic components of a solar panel. These two companies are now seeking government protection by filing a Section 201 petition with US International Trade Commission (ITC). This petition asks the federal government to determine whether imports of competing solar components from anywhere in the world have caused them “serious injury.”
If this petition is successful, the government will erect trade barriers that will artificially increase the price of their foreign competitors’ goods and double the cost of solar panels in the U.S. According to analysts, this action will essentially wipe out one of the fastest growing “all of the above” energy jobs sectors in states across the country—solar energy installation. Last year alone, the solar industry created 51,000 new jobs. That’s one in every 50 new jobs created in the United States in 2016.
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