United States finds solar panel imports harm domestic makers

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The U.S. International Trade Commission's preliminary finding that imports harmed U.S. manufacturers means President Donald Trump will get to decide whether to slap sanctions on foreign solar panels and modules or take other actions.

The independent body unanimously accepted a petition from bankrupt solar manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld that argued that competition from imports, mainly from China, are hurting their businesses.

"The U.S. solar manufacturing industry finds itself at the precipice of extinction at the hands of foreign market overcapacity", Suniva said in a statement. Its recommendations - which the president will have broad leeway to accept, amend or reject - could include establishing tariffs or minimum prices on imported solar equipment.

It cited a report from Green Tech Media Research saying the tariffs would result in the elimination of 88,000 U.S.jobs and the deferred installation of 47 gigawatts of solar capacity between 2017 and 2022, said Moody's.

White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said Friday that Trump "will examine the facts and make a determination that reflects the best interests of the United States".

"We brought this action because the USA solar manufacturing industry finds itself at the precipice of extinction at the hands of foreign market overcapacity", Mark Paustenbach, a spokesman for Suniva, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a press statement. Otherwise, he said, Chinese solar companies would simply set up factories in South Korea, Mexico or elsewhere to keep flooding the USA with low-priced panels.

Suniva called the case a matter of fairness. Mexico and Canada, covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement, supplied about 8 percent.

The two companies sought penalties of 40 cents per watt on imported cells and asked the court to set a floor price of 78 cents per watt on solar modules, or groups of solar cells.

In a statement, Suniva welcomed the commission's ruling. The ITC will deliver its recommendations to Trump by November 13.

It's unclear at what point the commission will consider nations with US trade agreements. If the ITC accepts the proposed pricing and tariffs - or, for that matter, any tariff - the president will have an opportunity to make good on his promises to institute tariffs to drive US manufacturing jobs. "A global tariff is the only way to ensure they don't game the system".

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