The Senate rejects the Biden Solar Tariff Exemption – The Biden administration’s attempt to temporarily abolish tariffs on solar materials imported from Southeast Asia was defeated by the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 56-41, sending the proposal to President Biden’s desk for an anticipated veto. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the Republicans voting against the resolution, was joined by nine Democrats in supporting it. The action by the Senate comes after the proposal was approved by the House with a majority of 221-202 and the support of 12 Democrats.
The White House’s position, according to lawmakers who want to reverse the tariff exemption, hurts American solar manufacturers while helping their Chinese rivals, who frequently export their goods through Southeast Asian nations to avoid U.S. tariffs on China, according to a Commerce Department investigation from last year. According to the Biden administration, the exemption is required to ensure utilities and solar developers have access to the solar resources they need until American manufacturers can increase production to keep up with demand. Four nations are covered by the two-year exemption: Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand.
The trade dispute serves as an example of how heavily involved Chinese businesses are in the production of renewable energy, which is crucial to President Biden’s climate aspirations. It contrasts the administration’s climate policy objectives with the desire of many Democrats to defend American firms from Chinese competition. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a Democrat who voted to repeal the exemption, said of his decision, “This vote represents a simple choice.”
While the Commerce Department’s investigation was ongoing in June, the administration approved the tariff exemption. Because of the probe, American consumers stopped buying products from those nations out of concern that they may be hit with retroactive tariffs. The Commerce Department discovered in December that four Chinese producers of solar cells move their goods through the four nations to circumvent American duties. Together, the four nations import 80% of the solar materials used in the United States.
The government defended the waivers by saying that the Commerce rule “provides a short-term bridge to ensure that there is a thriving U.S. solar installation industry ready to purchase the solar products that will be made in these American factories once they are operational.” The administration’s stance is supported by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who claims that the tariff moratorium protects the nation’s solar industry.