Sep 8, 2017

Trump likely to issue solar tariffs

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

President Trump is probably going to slap tariffs on solar-energy imports if a federal trade agency recommends them, according to an administration official and other experts.

"I would place the odds of the president agreeing to some type of remedy at 90%," said a Trump administration official familiar with the issue.

Why it matters: Speculation has risen that the Trump administration is sympathetic to putting tariffs on solar imports after Axios reported that Trump implored his staff to "bring" him tariffs. The move, if it plays out this way, would rattle the global solar industry and give Trump a way to prove he's protecting American jobs, even if it is in in an industry he hasn't talked about much at all.

What to watch: The International Trade Commission, which heard arguments for and against the issue a few weeks ago, will decide by Sept. 22 whether the U.S. industry is being "injured" (hurt economically) by cheap solar imports. If it does, it will send its recommendations to Trump by mid-November. If it doesn't, then Trump doesn't face any decision.

To be clear: Trump is unpredictable (that much we can predict), and whether he faces an imminent decision depends on how the ITC rules. A White House spokeswoman said there are no announcements at this time.

More predictions: "I think he will impose tariffs on imported solar panels," said David Goldwyn, a former Obama State Department official, at an event hosted Thursday by the Atlantic Council think tank. "The president wants a tariff. All he wants to use is a hammer and solar is the nail." Other experts on the panel, including Jeff Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, agreed with Goldwyn's take.

The back story:

  • In April, the bankrupt manufacturer Suniva, later joined by SolarWorld, petitioned the International Trade Commission for new tariffs on cells and a price floor on modules, arguing that cheap foreign imports are throttling the domestic panel industry.
  • The wider solar industry, via the Solar Energy Industries Association, and other critics say the companies have been run poorly. They argue that granting their petition would wreak havoc on the economics of U.S. solar projects by significantly increasing the cost of components.

The opposing sides weigh in:

  • Abby Hopper, president and CEO of solar trade group, said Thursday it was premature to make any predictions about Trump's position because the ITC hasn't issued its decision yet. She also said remedies don't necessarily need to be tariffs.
  • Suniva, arguing that more than two dozen other companies have gone bankrupt in the past five years because of cheap imports, said in a statement it would be "very supportive" of a Trump decision in favor of tariffs.

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Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 42 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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