Biden waives solar panel tariffs, invokes defence law

Four South-east Asian countries account for more than half of US solar panel supplies and 80 per cent of imports. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Joe Biden waived tariffs on solar panels from four Southeast Asian nations for two years and invoked the Defence Production Act to spur solar panel manufacturing at home, the White House said on Monday (June 6), confirming a Reuters report.

The tariff exemption applies to panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam and will serve as a “bridge” while US manufacturing ramps up, the White House said.

Shares in solar companies climbed after Reuters earlier reported that Mr Biden would issue a proclamation that ensured panels accounting for some 80 per cent of US imports did not face tariffs of as much as 250 per cent, which could have been levied retroactively as part of a Commerce Department probe.

The move comes in response to concern about a freezing of solar projects nationwide and the impact on the fight against climate change from an investigation into whether solar panel imports from the four countries were circumventing tariffs on goods made in China.

The White House said the Defence Production Act would also be used to expand manufacturing of building insulation, heat pumps, transformers, and equipment for “clean electricity-generated fuels” such as electrolysers and fuel cells.

“With a stronger clean energy arsenal, the United States can be an even stronger partner to our allies, especially in the face of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

Ms Heather Zichal, chief executive of the American Clean Power Association, said Mr Biden’s announcement would “rejuvenate the construction and domestic manufacturing of solar power by restoring predictability and business certainty”.

The Commerce Department investigation – kicked off in response to a complaint from a small solar panel provider, Auxin - essentially halted the flow of solar panels that make up more than half of US supplies and 80 per cent of imports.

Auxin’s CEO, Mr Mamun Rashid, criticised the White House move as having “opened the door wide for Chinese-funded special interests to defeat the fair application of US trade law”.

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