President Biden on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have reinstated tariffs on solar panels from Chinese companies in Southeast Asia that were found to have been imported into the United States in violation of trade rules.
The Senate passed the resolution by a narrow margin this month, with several key Democrats supporting the measure, in a sharp rebuke of Mr. Biden. The president announced a two-year pause on the tariffs last year after importers complained that the sanctions would threaten broader adoption of solar power in the United States.
“Passage of this resolution takes a beating against American innovation,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “It would undermine these efforts and create profound uncertainty for American companies and workers in the solar industry.”
The standoff has pitted Biden’s climate goals against efforts to make the United States less dependent on China’s supply of materials that are crucial to the American economy. Critics said the suspension of the tariffs did not stand up for American workers and solar power manufacturers, who have pressured the administration to block the importation of cheap goods.
“We must get behind the message of wanting to build an American supply chain with action, even if it is difficult and complicates some deployments,” said Robbie Diamond, executive director of SAFE, a group that advocates reducing America’s dependence on oil. “If we are going to talk for the sake of talking, we must walk the road.”
Members of Congress criticized Biden’s suspension of sanctions after a US trade court ruled in December that four Chinese companies attempted to illegally evade US tariffs on solar products shipped from China by routing their products to through factories in Southeast Asia.
If not for Biden’s suspension of the tariffs, those companies would have been subject to higher tariff rates to bring products into the United States. Some Democrats have joined Republicans in accusing the administration of violating US trade rules written to protect US manufacturers.
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, said in a statement Tuesday that Biden had not “held China accountable.”
“Failing to stand up to those who engage in unfair trade practices hurts American workers and manufacturers,” Kildee said.
However, the administration has argued that buying solar panels from China in the near term is necessary to meet the president’s efforts to mitigate climate change. China makes the vast majority of the cells and panels that convert sunlight into electricity.
However, solar importers and installers have defended the tariff pause, saying it should be extended further. The White House has also argued that the materials are needed as companies commit to building solar panels after Biden passed the Cut Inflation Act, which provides $37 billion in incentives for companies to produce solar panels, turbines wind power, batteries and crucial minerals in the United States.
“This action is a reaffirmation of the administration’s commitment to business certainty in the clean energy sector and a signal for companies to continue creating jobs, increasing domestic manufacturing capacity, and investing in American communities,” Abigail Ross Hopper , president of Solar Energy. Industry Association, she said in a statement.
ann swanson contributed reporting.