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Sun Block

How Protectionism Dims the Solar Sector's Prospects

Secret Service agents at a solar plant in Florida during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, October 2009. JIM YOUNG / REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported request to Oval Office staff to “bring me some tariffs” may soon be answered by an unlikely source: the solar power industry. In a recent decision on a case at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), commission members unanimously (4-0) decided to open the door to protectionist measures against crystalline solar panel imports from nearly every country. As of 2016, an estimated 87 percent of U.S. solar installations use foreign-assembled panels, which means that the ruling could bring a future that is significantly less bright for solar energy in the United States. Although many doubt that the U.S. president’s “America First” trade policy will create new jobs or improve trade imbalances, the ITC’s recommendation will allow him to test that stance via solar power by January 12.

PROTECTING THE SUN

The original petition was filed with the trade commission in April

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