Washington Post comes out against tariffs on solar

If Suniva and SolarWorld’s proposals for trade action on imported solar cells and modules aren’t popular with much of the U.S. industry, they also increasingly aren’t popular with the media.

On Sunday Washington Post’s editorial board issued an editorial against trade action in the Section 201 case, stating that “the risks of helping a narrow slice of the industry at the expense of the rest of it simply outweigh the benefits”.

The Post is the latest large, national publication known to pv magazine to make a statement against tariffs on imported solar, following a similarly anti-tariff statement by the Wall Street Journal, as well as statements from the boards of the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg and at least three other major publications.

Like Wall Street Journal the editorial board of the Washington Post appears to be motivated at least in part by an antipathy to protectionism. The editorial warns that the Section 201 solar trade case may be “just the beginning”.

“Once the Trump administration signals that it is willing to misuse the nation’s trade laws to help narrow special interests, uncompetitive companies in a range of industries will file their own complaints, raising everyone else’s prices,” stated the editorial board.

It is unclear what role Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) played in the editorial, however the editorial cites jobs figures and arguments made by the organization. SEIA has launched a determined campaign to oppose trade action, however SEIA CEO Abigail Hopper told pv magazine staff that the organization was going to focus on the sort of media that would be likely to influence President Trump, which might rule out the Post.

When questioned by pv magazine about its role in the Washington Post editorial, SEIA VP of Communications Dan Whitten replied that “we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we hadn’t contacted someone at the editorial boards of just about every major paper in the country”. Given the number of publications that have taken SEIA’s side, such outreach appears to be falling on sympathetic ears.

And as tariffs are proving unpopular in the media, the possibility of legal challenges by affected nations may also surface. On Thursday South Korea’s trade ministry said that if tariffs were imposed it would consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), among “all available measures” to oppose trade action, according to Reuters.

South Korea has been active in opposing trade action, and South Korean officials were among the few nations that travelled to Washington DC to make a special case for the products made by domestic companies to be exempt from any trade action.

South Korean representatives at at the tariff remedy hearing in early October noted that the nation supplies a significant portion of the n-type mono solar cells and modules which are not available from U.S. manufacturers. However, U.S. trade officials declined to make any exceptions for n-type mono products in their final rulings.

 

Update: This article was updated at 3:56 PM on November 6 to include a quote from SEIA, as well as an updated list of publications that have printed editorials opposed to trade action.