A group of 10 conservative groups are lobbying the White House to make sure President Trump rejects a proposal to place tariffs on solar panel imports.
"If trade restrictions are imposed, the cost of solar products in the United States could double, endangering tens of thousands of good-paying domestic jobs within the solar industry," the conservative groups said in a letter sent to the president Thursday night.
The tariffs "would amount to nothing more than a crony capitalist giveaway to failing foreign-owned companies," the letter said. "They would be paid for by crippling an otherwise growing domestic solar industry (one whose preferential federal tax treatment has been correspondingly phasing down) and higher prices for energy consumers."
The International Trade Commission had unanimously decided last month that the solar industry is being hurt by cheap solar panel imports, which set the stage for Trump to impose tariffs that falls under the the president's authority. Trump could make a decision soon.
The coalition, including the R Street Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, and others, point out to the president why approving tariffs would be an inappropriate move.
They also pointed out that there is precedent for not taking action, saying tariffs to help the steel industry that were put in place under former Republican President George W. Bush were harmful.
"The last time the United States imposed import restrictions under its safeguard power was in 2002, when then-President George W. Bush tried to implement stiffer tariffs on imported steel," the letter said. "The tariffs sparked a threat of retaliation by the European Union, caused up to 200,000 domestic job losses and nearly $4 billion in lost wages, and eventually were withdrawn after a successful challenge at the [World Trade Organization]."
The two companies that want the tariffs imposed, majority Chinese-owned Suniva and Germany's SolarWorld, are "both bankrupt, foreign-owned solar firms" that filed a petition under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, "claiming that an increase in solar imports has seriously injured them."
The conservative groups said the "rarely used but powerful statute" under Section 201, if approved, would apply to otherwise “fairly traded” products from all countries and companies that export to the U.S.
"In short, it’s an extreme remedy with a troubling recent history," the letter stated.
"While granting these companies import relief may preserve a minimal amount of jobs in their companies, tariffs or other trade restrictions would no doubt jeopardize far more domestic jobs than could possibly be saved," the coalition stated.
"In fact, it is questionable whether the petitioners’ requested relief would revive their companies at all."