President Joe Biden Vetoes Bipartisan Bill Protecting U.S. Solar Panel Makers from Chinese Competition

President Joe Biden vetoed a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday that would have reversed his executive action last year that ordered the Department of Commerce not to enforce tariffs on Chinese companies that manufacture solar panels for two years.

The president said the legislation — which passed both the Senate and House with Democratic support — “bets against American innovation.” Biden implemented the 24-month moratorium on enforcing solar panel anti-circumvention tariffs last year that were created to protect American companies, a move the White House touted as helping to facilitate investment in domestic production capabilities of solar panels.

Tuesday, the president said, “Passage of this resolution bets against American innovation. It would undermine these efforts and create deep uncertainty for American businesses and workers in the solar industry. Therefore, I am vetoing this resolution.”

President Biden added that he doesn’t “intend to” extend the suspension of the tariff when the 24-month moratorium expires in June of 2024.

The president’s June 2022 executive action followed after the Commerce Department said months earlier it would investigate whether Chinese manufacturers were sending solar panels through Southeast Asian countries to avoid U.S. tariffs.

In December, the agency published initial findings showing four large solar companies had routed products through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia to evade paying duties. The findings are expected to be released by the Commerce Department this month.

Bipartisan lawmakers say tariffs are needed to protect the fledgling U.S. solar industry

In response to the December findings, a group of bipartisan lawmakers led by GOP Florida Representative Bill Posey, along with Michigan Democrat Representative Dan Kildee, introduced the January resolution striking down Biden’s action and argued tariffs were needed to protect the relatively new U.S. solar industry, which is overshadowed by Chinese industry. GOP Senator Rick Scott of Florida introduced twin legislation co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

The resolution utilizes the Congressional Review Act, legislation allowing Congress to revoke federal regulations — passed by a 221-202 vote in the House on April 28 and May 3 in the Senate in a 56-41 vote.

“I am disappointed that President Biden vetoed this important legislation,” said Kildee on Tuesday. “Failing to stand up to those who engage in unfair trade practices hurts American workers and manufacturers. Our workers and businesses will never be able to compete globally unless we hold those who violate U.S. trade laws accountable.”

“The president’s position, and today’s veto, fails to hold China accountable and hurts American workers,” continued the Democratic lawmaker. “Congress passed this bipartisan resolution with strong support from Republicans and Democrats. Now that the president has vetoed this bill, Congress should once again vote to override today’s veto without delay.”

According to the International Energy Agency, Chinese companies control over 80% share of the global solar panel industry and the supply chain in all stages of manufacturing the product. The Chinese solar industry has been tied to forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province.

Pro-tariff groups, including the Coalition for Prosperous America, endorsed the resolution, along with human rights groups like the Uyghur Human Rights Project. Green energy organizations and environmental groups, including the Solar Energy Association (SEIA), opposed it.

“This action is a reaffirmation of the administration’s commitment to business certainty in the clean energy sector and a signal to companies to continue creating jobs building domestic manufacturing capacity, and investing in American communities,” said SEIA’s CEO and president, Abigail Ross Hopper, responding to Biden’s veto.