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Expert Voices

Trump's solar tariffs won't bring back manufacturing from China

solar panels in field in front of forest
Solar panels in Grafton, Massachusetts. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

President Trump announced the first sweeping trade actions of his administration, enacting tariffs on solar panels and components (as well as washing machines) from nearly every country around the world. Even though Trump was right to blame Chinese government subsidies to its solar manufacturers for bankrupting U.S. solar producers, his "America First" tariffs are a decade too late to matter.

Solar manufacturers across Asia can now stand on their own feet without public handouts, and their massive scale enables them to win brutal price wars. As they have driven down the cost of solar panels by three quarters over the last decade, the global share of U.S. solar manufacturing has dwindled to less than 5%.

What's next: Expect minimal investment in U.S. solar factories (any that are built will be highly automated), net U.S. job destruction as higher solar panel prices shave the boom in solar installations by 10%, and Chinese trade retaliation. Ultimately, the WTO may well rule Trump's tariffs illegal.

Varun Sivaram is the Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet."

Jonathan Swan 11 hours ago
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McMaster out, Bolton in as National Security Adviser

Bolton. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

H.R. McMaster plans to resign and will be replaced as national security adviser by former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. The White House said McMaster's departure had been under discussion for some time and that the process was sped up to end speculation about the role. McMaster will stay on until mid-April.

Bottom line: This isn’t about ideology — unlike Trump, Bolton is hawkish and interventionist on foreign policy. This is about personal chemistry. 

Khorri Atkinson 8 hours ago
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China slaps reciprocal tariffs on U.S. imports

China's President Xi Jinping speaks next to President Trump. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri// AFP / Getty Images

China announced plans to impose reciprocal tariffs on $3 billion of imports from the U.S., hours after President Trump ordered levies on a range of Chinese goods.

The details: China's plan includes a 25% tariff on U.S. pork imports as well as 15% tariffs on American steel pipes, fruit and wine, according to Bloomberg.