WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he has vetoed legislation passed by the U.S. Congress that would repeal exemptions on American tariffs on imported solar panels from four Southeast Asian nations.
The waivers for duties on panels made in Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, granted by Biden in June 2022, are set to be in place for two years.
Biden said the waivers will create a "bridge" while U.S. manufacturing ramps up enough to supply the domestic projects needed to achieve goals in fighting climate change.
Top clean energy trade groups, whose members rely on cheap imports to keep their costs low, support the exemption and praised Biden's veto.
The waiver stemmed from a Commerce Department investigation last year that found that some major Chinese solar panel makers were trying to dodge U.S. tariffs on their products by finishing them in Southeast Asian nations. Imports from the countries make up around 80% of U.S. solar panel supplies.
Domestic solar manufacturers have said the tariffs are needed now to compete with cheap panels made overseas.
In a statement explaining only the third veto of his presidency, Biden said the waivers would help ensure "we have a thriving solar installation industry ready to deploy American-made solar products to homes, businesses and communities across the nation." Biden said he does not intend to extend the waivers after their expiration.
Representative Dan Kildee, a Democrat who was one of the sponsors of the legislation, said he was disappointed in the veto.
"Our workers and businesses will never be able to compete globally unless we hold those who violate U.S. trade laws accountable," Kildee said in a statement.
Congress appears to lack the votes to override Biden's veto, with two-thirds majorities needed in the House of Representatives and Senate.
In a statement, the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said the legislation would have eliminated 30,000 jobs in the solar sector by stalling development.
"This action is a reaffirmation of the administration's commitment to business certainty in the clean energy sector, and a signal to companies to continue creating jobs, building domestic manufacturing capacity and investing in American communities," SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.
(Reporting by Katharine Jackson, Rami Ayyub and Nichola Groom; Editing by Will Dunham, Tim Ahmann and Bill Berkrot)