Biden would veto legislation to block solar tariff waivers

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will veto congressional efforts to overturn his solar tariff waiver for four Southeast Asian nations for two years, the White House said on Monday.

In June, Biden waived tariffs on solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in an effort to create a “bridge” while U.S. manufacturing ramps up enough to supply the domestic projects needed to achieve climate change goals.

Today, those four countries make up about 80% of U.S. panel supplies.

Domestic manufacturers, however, say the tariffs are needed now to compete with cheap panels made overseas. The repeal effort aims to support those companies.

Last week a U.S. House of Representatives committee voted in favor of restoring the tariffs on the solar panels from the four countries, reversing Biden’s suspension. That legislation, which both Democrats and Republicans support, is expected to come up for a full vote in the House as soon as this week.

In a statement, the White House said it “strongly opposes” the resolution and would veto it if it passes. Reuters was first to report the president’s pledge to veto the legislation earlier on Monday.

The White House argues that Biden’s policy has worked and points to an increase in domestic solar manufacturing capacity since Biden came into office.

“This legislation would sabotage U.S. energy security,” Ali Zaidi, Biden’s national climate adviser, told Reuters.

“It’s not about slowing things down. It’s about fundamentally undermining our progress towards increased energy security and having the tools we need to attack the climate crisis,” Zaidi added.

Representative Dan Kildee, a Democrat who co-sponsored the resolution, said in an emailed statement that he disagreed with Biden on this issue.

“China has been found to have violated our trade laws, yet the United States has failed to respond, including suspending tariffs and letting their unlawful behavior go unanswered,” he said.

The U.S. is on track to increase domestic solar panel manufacturing capacity eightfold by the end of 2024, another White House official said.

Biden does not plan to extend the tariff waivers after the two-year period has concluded because domestic manufacturing has taken off.

“Given the strong trends in the domestic solar industry, the President does not intend to extend the tariff suspension at the conclusion of the 24-month period in June 2024,” the White House said in its Statement of Administration Policy.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Nichola Groom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski, Josie Kao and Jonathan Oatis)