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Tesla Lobbies Against Trump’s Possible Solar Trade Protections

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Electric automaker Tesla is lobbying against a solar industry petition asking President Donald Trump to foist heavy import tariffs against solar panels.

Tesla is working in opposition to a petition from solar companies Suniva and SolarWorld, demanding steep penalties against cheap panel imports, according to Tesla’s second-quarter lobbying filings. The groups believe cheap imports are hurting the solar industry.

“Although we are currently building the largest solar cell and module manufacturing plant in the US, we still oppose this petition,” a Tesla spokesman told reporters Tuesday.

“Tesla is committed to expanding its domestic manufacturing with or without any tariff or price guarantees,” he added.

Suniva was founded in Georgia but sold to Japan-based International Clean Energy in 2015. The company filed a petition with the International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting protectionist tariffs against countries like China shortly after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.

Company officials also claimed competition from Chinese-made solar panels all but forced the company into bankruptcy, despite receiving more than $20 million in support from federal and state taxpayers, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Tesla’s refusal to join the tariff supporters comes after a small coalition of solar companies and organizations began campaigning against the tariffs. The Energy Trade Action Coalition said earlier this month that it will fight against the petition from Suniva and SolarWorld. The group also rebuked the company’s protectionist tendencies.

Tesla might have a dog in the hunt on this issue. The Silicon Valley company announced in June plans to build a large electric vehicle manufacturing plant in China, according to media reports at the time. The facility could help Tesla reduce prices through saving on a combination of costs from tariffs and shipping.

China’s central government requires all foreign auto manufacturers to partner with a Chinese-based company to build on Chinese soil, with the foreign company owning no more than 50 percent of the business.

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