U.S. rejects EU alternatives to solar safeguard tariffs: WTO filing

FILE PHOTO: An array of solar panels are seen in Oakland, California, U.S. on December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) - Washington has rejected European Union proposals for an alternative to U.S. safeguard tariffs imposed on solar power goods, the two trading powers said in a joint World Trade Organization filing on Tuesday.

The 30 percent tariff on solar panels was among the first unilateral trade restrictions imposed by the Trump administration as part of a broader protectionist agenda aimed at helping U.S. manufacturers.

Safeguard tariffs are a form of emergency trade protection, permitted under WTO rules if a country is facing a sudden, damaging surge in imports of a particular product.

But they come with strings attached: the United States is supposed to compensate major solar power-exporting countries by offering them improved trade in other areas, or accept them putting up barriers to U.S. exports to balance things out.

The EU, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia all demanded compensation after U.S. President Donald Trump signed the tariffs into law in January.

At an EU-U.S. meeting on Feb. 15, the EU said its exports were not causing serious damage to U.S. competitors, due to the volume of trade and higher prices, the WTO filing said.

“Thus, it suggested a form of measure that would be less penalizing for European Union imports such as a quota allocated by country or a minimum import price. The United States did not agree with this,” the WTO filing said.

“In addition, there was no agreement on the form of compensation,” though both sides agreed to monitor developments and continue discussions.

In a separate document, the United States and Taiwan said that if there was no agreement between them, Taiwan could introduce compensatory measures in February 2022.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet