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Morning Brief: Solar Tariff War Sparks Retroactive Taxes

by Renewing America Staff
August 27, 2012

Employees work on a solar panel production line at a solar company workshop in Hefei, China (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Employees work on a solar panel production line at a solar company workshop in Hefei, China (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

In May, the Commerce Department announced provisional antidumping duties of between 31 and 250 percent on solar cells imported from China, and gave many U.S. solar installation firms large retroactive taxes (WSJ).  The decision to apply tariffs retroactively on purchases in the prior 90 days caught many businesses off guard.  One CEO commented: “If I had any clue that I would be on the hook for a 200-plus percent duty on this order, I would be a crazy man to make it.”

Helping Chinese Consumers Buy American

Businessweek profiles Frank Lavin’s Export Now which acts as a middleman to helps sell U.S. goods to Chinese consumers. Sales are often direct to consumers through sites such as Alibaba’s Tmall.com. Lavin, a former undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department said: “You can sell in China more or less at the same price point that you sell for in the U.S., and more or less for the same profit margin as the U.S.”

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Innovation

Apple Defeats Samsung in Major Patent Case

The landmark Apple-Samsung patent tussle was decided in Apple’s favor, to the tune of $1 billion (The Economist). While Apple may be emboldened to bring further cases on smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system, Samsung’s appeals and further court wrangling are likely to last years. Some analysts expect more settlements and licensing payments, but others see the potential for greater innovation and differentiation. On the lighter side, here are the case’s top ten one-liners (Bloomberg Businessweek).

Neil Armstrong Leaves This World at Eighty-Two

Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, died on Saturday at age eighty-two.  His “giant leap for mankind” not only extended humanity’s reach but also inspired generations of scientists, engineers, and leaders (TechCrunch).  The New York Times has a good summary of Apollo 11’s historic mission, and a collection of tweets that illustrate Armstrong’s impact on many minds.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, noted astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, discussed the economic importance of pushing scientific frontiers through space exploration in an essay and interview with Foreign Affairs.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

Infrastructure

Increased Global Investment in Water Desalination

The global market for plants that extract freshwater from the world’s oceans is expected to triple over five years (Bloomberg). Surging investment in desalination plants comes as cities and nations grapple with higher demand, inefficient use, and declining sources of freshwater.  As Dow Chemical’s CEO observed: “Water right now is a strain on this planet more than carbon.  We mismanage water terribly. It’s going to be a big issue.”

Peter R. Orszag, an adjunct senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed the need for the United States to take aggressive action to address water problems (Bloomberg).

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

Education and Human Capital

Large Cities Abandon Federal Grants

Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York City have all abandoned programs partially funded with federal grants for teacher development and merit pay (EducationWeek). Ultimately, the three school districts were unable to keep teacher union support while meeting federal requirements on performance-based compensation.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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