The U.S. president approved controversial tariffs on imported washing machines and solar cells on Monday. The move, which is aligned to Trump’s “America First” stance on trade, aims to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competitors.
“I don’t typically defend him,” Gore said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.
“(But) I will say in this case it really did not start with him. This was a trade action brought by private companies. They chose a kind of midpoint in the range of alternatives … It could have been handled differently, should have been handled differently but it’s not an utter catastrophe,” he added.
The U.S. will impose duties of up to 30 percent on solar equipment made around the world, in a move which prompted outcry from China and South Korea — two primary targets of the measure. Some U.S. businesses which rely on imported products have also expressed concern with the decision.
The U.S. International Trade Commission had recommended a 35 percent tariff in 2017, after receiving complaints by two solar panel manufacturers, Sunvia and SolarWorld. Both firms had long protested cheap Chinese solar imports had undercut the industry.
“The large subsidies from China for exporting solar panels has put some other companies in the world at a disadvantage,” Gore added.
Fueled by government subsidies, China is the world’s biggest producer of solar panels. And in response to the Trump administration’s announcement at the start of the week, Beijing said the move was an “overreaction.”