Joe Biden plans to veto any legislation by Congress that attempts to overturn his decision to waive solar tariffs on four Southeast Asian nations for two years, according to White House officials. The waivers, intended to serve as a “bridge” while domestic manufacturing expands, have become contentious, as some believe they give an unfair advantage to foreign manufacturers.
In June of last year, the Biden administration waived tariffs on solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The policy has increased domestic solar production since Biden took office. However, a House committee voted last week to restore the tariffs, which would reverse Biden’s suspension. The legislation is now expected to come up for a full vote in the House.
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Biden’s national climate advisor Ali Zaidi defends the administration’s position, saying, “This legislation would sabotage U.S. energy security. It would undermine our momentum in creating a massive new domestic industry.” He added that it would also jeopardize jobs in the solar industry, which are crucial for addressing the climate crisis.
The U.S. is projected to increase domestic solar panel manufacturing capacity by eight times by the end of 2024. As a result, the White House maintains that the president does not plan to extend the tariff suspension beyond two years, as domestic manufacturing has shown significant growth.
Auxin Solar, a small solar panel manufacturer in California, filed a complaint against competitors in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. They argued that these countries were using Chinese-made components to assemble solar panels for sale in the U.S., effectively skirting the tariffs on Chinese products.
U.S. solar projects were thrown into chaos when the Commerce Department announced its investigation into the matter, as fears that tariffs might triple the cost of solar panels impacted project costs and import decisions.
The Biden administration’s decision to waive the tariffs has faced criticism from domestic manufacturers and the companies impacted by the waiver. For example, First Solar, a major U.S. solar panel manufacturer, called the decision “disappointing” and one that “only benefits China’s state-subsidized solar industry.”
However, companies in the solar power installation business have praised the administration’s actions. Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, lauded the decision as a “bold act of leadership.” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said it would “protect existing solar jobs” and foster domestic manufacturing.
With Biden’s commitment to vetoing any congressional efforts to overturn his solar policy, it is clear that the administration is determined to push forward with its plans to expand the domestic solar industry. Only time will tell if this decision proves fruitful for American workers and the nation’s energy security.
Here is a report from last year describing the tariff waivers at the time Biden ordered them: