Government Shouldn’t Pick Winners And Losers

A look back at the headlines from the past year proves one thing beyond a doubt: President Trump and his administration are committed to economic growth.

Unemployment is at its lowest point in nearly two decades while housing is thriving. And the stock market has been booming all year, closing the year by setting yet another new record high in anticipation of the economic benefits of the recently passed tax reform law.

It’s true that presidents can’t claim all the credit – or shoulder all the blame – for the unemployment rate or the performance of the stock market. But they can use their position to lead the way for growth. That’s exactly what President Trump has done during his first year in office by embracing free markets and economic freedom and setting aside the populist calls for protectionism.

The president should uphold his commitment to free markets now that he is facing calls to implement tariffs on solar imports. Succumbing to these calls would have a widespread negative impact on solar markets, drive up prices, and steer the country away from the efforts that have allowed for unprecedented prosperity over the last twelve months.

That commitment is now being challenged by two struggling solar companies that have asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to tip the balance of the market in order to artificially raise prices for foreign competitors. The companies – Suniva and Solar World – are relying on an obscure petition that could allow the commission to implement heavily protectionist policies simply because the petitioners claim the domestic solar industry is put at a disadvantage by more competitively priced imports.

That petition is known as “section 201” is typically reserved for extreme cases, such as when American companies are put at an unfair disadvantage because of illegal activities. It was last put into use 15 years ago to implement a temporary tariff on steel imports.

Section 201 is not intended to rig the market and allow the government to choose winners and losers. If the ITC grants the Section 201 petition to Suniva and Solar World, the cost of solar products in the United States could double – potentially crippling an important part of our energy sector in the process.

For now, the ITC has punted on its decision. The commission did not grant the petition request, but it did recommend market-altering measures like quotas and tariffs. It should act quickly and swiftly to avoid the calls to enact protectionist policies that will not only raise prices for consumers, but undermine American energy independence in the process.

The question at hand has an obvious answer for anyone who opposes government picking winners and losers in our economy. President Trump is well versed in populist tones, but his policies have been admirably rooted in the free market. His administration should continue the important work that’s been done so far to encourage economic freedom and growth by rejecting the Section 201 petition.