After nine months of protest from solar industry stakeholders, the Trump Administration has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported photovoltaic cells, as recommended by the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The decision concludes a case filed by the now bankrupt cell manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld. The recommendations were based on consultations with the interagency Trade Policy Committee (TPC) in response to findings by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that increased foreign imports of solar cells and modules cause injury to domestic manufacturers.
“The ITC found that U.S. 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,” said USTR Ambassador Robert Lighthizer.
The relief will include a tariff of 30 percent in the first year, 25 percent in the second year, 20 percent in the third year, and 15 percent in the fourth year. Additionally, the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells will be exempt from the safeguard tariff in each of those four years.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and its members expressed disappointment in the decision, which they say will cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year and result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments.
“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO.
The ITC instituted the trade case in May 2017, which levied 40 percent tariffs on Chinese solar imports. China moved production elsewhere and evaded U.S. relief, while maintaining capacity. Today, China dominates the global supply chain and, by its own admission, is looking to increase its capacity to account for 70 percent of total planned global capacity expansions announced in the first half of 2017.