Malaysia files for US talks over solar tariff

The US tariffs will impact us as Malaysia is 1 of the top 3 countries in the world that exports solar equipments, says Mustapa

By FARA AISYAH / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Malaysia has filed a request for consultation with the US through the World Trade Organisation over its 30% import tariffs on solar-based equipment, said International Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

“Malaysia is one of the top three countries in the world that exports solar equipments, and so, the 30% duties imposed on these equipments made outside the US will have an impact on us,” Mustapa told reporters at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

US President Donald Trump made the announcement in January, which is anticipated to be the most targeted strike on the renewable-energy industry.

It was among the actions Trump has taken to undermine the economics of the industry, including the international Paris climate agreement, and rolled back Barrack Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and passed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind.

Earlier this month, Trump announced he would impose a 25% tariff on the import of steel and a 10% tariff on the import of aluminium products, under Section 232 of the US trade law on grounds of national security interests.

Mustapa said the US tariffs on steel and aluminium products will not affect Malaysia’s export.

“The impact from US tariffs on steel and aluminium products to our exports is expected to be minimal, since product exports to the country is only about 1%.

“We are, however, worried about the countermeasures that will be taken by the countries badly affected by the tariffs. We are also concerned of the probability of a trade war,” Mustapa said.

The Malaysian Reserve had previously reported that MITI Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said Malaysia would not be greatly affected by the import tariffs as steel and aluminium are not major items of trade between Malaysia and the US.

Steel and aluminium exports to the US stood only at 0.2% for 2017.

“Our total trade with the US stood at RM158.1 billion last year, with exports valued at RM88.69 billion and imports at RM69.32 billion,” Ong said.

The trade for electrical and electronic products was at 55.4% (RM49.14 billion), rubber products at 6.9% (RM6.11 billion), optical and scientific equipment at 6.3% (RM5.5 billion), other manufacturing products at 5.6% (RM4.97 billion), while wood-based products was at 4% (RM3.4 billion).

“The US’ decision was unfortunate. Once you do this, other countries will definitely retaliate, which in turn could start a trade war,” said Ong.