Photo via the NY Times
Thanks to the global recession, solar industry is already struggling. But now, according to the NY Times, companies that import solar panels to the US are facing unexpected tariffs--to the tune of $70 million. This could be bad news not only for the fragile solar power industry, but for trade relations with countries that send over their panels. The new tariff emerged after it was determined by the US customs agency that, according to the NY Times,
the panels had become too sophisticated to qualify for duty-free import. Instead -- because the panels contain a basic electronic device for safety and energy efficiency -- they would be treated as electric generators, subject to a duty of 2.5 percent.And, like I said, this comes at a particularly bad time for the solar industry--competition from ever-expanding operations in China, paired with the global recession have already driven the price for solar panels way down. An additional tariff will make it extremely difficult for smaller countries to compete.
At the same time, China is likely to be angered by what will appear to be a one-two punch on tariffs--news of the solar development comes right after the Obama administration announced it was slapping a huge tariff on imported Chinese tires. This could serve to further strain US-China trade relations.
And the oddest thing about this whole story is that this tariff has actually been on the books for years but was only discovered by the solar industry recently, after a company inquired if there even was such a tariff (the Times notes that it's strange that none of the companies were already aware of it). As such, companies that have been importing solar panels are now likely to owe penalties for previously unpaid tariffs.
The government is discussing whether to change the policy.