Chinese Firm Announces U.S. Solar Plant, a Week After Trump Tariffs

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

A Chinese solar manufacturer said Monday that it plans to open a plant in the U.S., a week after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panels.

JinkoSolar Holding Co. said Monday that its board has authorized the company "to finalize planning for the construction of an advanced solar manufacturing facility in the U.S."

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The company tucked news of its U.S. manufacturing plans into an announcement about an agreement to supply an unnamed U.S. customer with 1.75 gigawatts of solar panels over about three years.

It appeared to tie the proposed facility to Mr. Trump's recent tariff decision, which would tax imported solar panels and cells at 30% in the first year. The tariff would decline to 15% in the fourth and final year.

"JinkoSolar continues to closely monitor treatment of imports of solar cells and modules under the U.S. trade laws," the company said.

Mr. Trump had hoped his new tariffs, which also include similar import restrictions on washing machines, would lead foreign companies to shift production to the U.S. His trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has said the imposition and threats of trade barriers against Tokyo in the 1980s helped spur Japanese auto makers to build factories in the U.S.

"It will provide a strong incentive for LG and Samsung to follow through on their recent promises to build major manufacturing plants for washing machines" in the U.S., Mr. Trump said last week.

A spokeswoman for JinkoSolar declined to give more detail about the company's plans.

Records filed with Jacksonville, Fla., show that a company code-named Project Volt, billed as a "leading international manufacturer of solar panels and modules," wants to open what would be "the company's first manufacturing and assembly operation in the U.S." The company has committed to investing $410 million, and creating as many as 800 jobs, by the end of 2019, according to city documents.

Jacksonville officials have approved more than $24 million in incentives for the project, a city spokeswoman said. She declined to comment on any ties between Project Volt and JinkoSolar.

Mr. Trump's decision to impose tariffs was the result of a petition by two embattled solar manufacturers with operations in the U.S., who said their business had been undercut by a flood of cheap solar imports. In lobbying for the trade protections, they argued that a tariff would force foreign competitors to open manufacturing facilities -- and bring thousands of jobs -- to the U.S.

Domestic solar installers, which employ many more people than the relatively small U.S. solar manufacturing sector, largely opposed the tariffs. They said they stand to lose some 23,000 jobs in 2018 as the tariff raises solar prices, which they anticipate would reduce sales.

--Jacob M. Schlesinger contributed to this article.

Write to Erin Ailworth at Erin.Ailworth@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 29, 2018 17:51 ET (22:51 GMT)

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