US approves controversial tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels

The US has approved controversial tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels in line with president Donald Trump's "America First" trade policy. The policy is aimed at protecting local manufacturers against foreign competition.

A spokesman said the administration would "always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers and businessmen".

However, the move has run into criticism from China and South Korea, whose manufacturers would be most heavily affected.

More trade enforcement actions would follow according to US officials.

Trump has talked about taking action ever since he assumed office and in his inauguration speech last year, he promised to protect US borders from other countries "making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs."

According to commentators, the actions are being seen as the most significant trade moves by the president since his decision to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal (TPP) and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Meanwhile the Office of the United States Trade Representative said in a statement, ''US trade representative Robert Lighthizer announced today that president Trump has approved recommendations to impose safeguard tariffs on imported large residential washing machines and imported solar cells and modules.''

''USTR made the recommendations to the President based on consultations with the interagency Trade Policy Committee (TPC) in response to findings by the independent, bipartisan US International Trade Commission (ITC) that increased foreign imports of washers and solar cells and modules are a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers.''

''These cases were filed by American businesses and thoroughly litigated at the International Trade Commission over a period of several months,'' said Ambassador Lighthizer.

''The ITC found that US producers had been seriously injured by imports and made several recommendations to the president. Upon receiving these recommendations, my staff and I conducted an exhaustive process, which included opportunities to brief in person and through public comments, public hearings, and meetings with senior representatives. Based on this information, the Trade Policy Committee developed recommendations, which the President has accepted. The President's action makes clear again that the Trump Administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard.''