The US Department of Commerce is conducting an investigation into solar panel makers from four Asian countries suspected of serving as a conduit for, and hence helping dodge tariffs on, Chinese suppliers. Top climate officials, numerous utility and solar firms, and environmental groups alike are pushing back, saying the prospect of retroactive tariffs on panel imports will devastate the US solar industry.
Certainly, the tariffs will be disruptive – and, in fact, already are. Projects nationwide have been halted. Two-thirds of planned capacity additions this year could be at risk. But far more threatening is America’s continued reliance for clean energy sources on foreign imports, especially when that reliance is on China, whose government uses predatory practices to hollow out other countries’ solar industries, and sees supply chain dominance as a point of geopolitical leverage. And that’s not even to mention the forced labor risks throughout China’s solar industry, or its reliance on highly polluting coal-fired electricity.
Potential tariffs may well cause temporary pain in the US solar industry. Some existing solar firms may go under. But the answer is not to lift tariffs or to stop calling foul on China. It is to pair tariffs with investment in domestic manufacturing capacity.
Once again, Hong Kong finds itself caught between the US and China. Back in 2019, the story was largely geopolitical: The city was squeezed between citywide protests and the US-China trade war. Now Hong Kong is in dicey financial straits – caught between the US Federal Reserve’s rising interest rates and China’s stalling economy.