SolBid’s Clean Energy News has followed the ITC Section 201 Solar Trade case since the initial proposal. At the time of our last discussion, the administration was in place to announce the final ruling by January 26th. Three days early, on January 23rd, the President signed the proclamation placing a tariff on imported solar cells and modules for a period of four years. The import tariff, which was implemented February 7th, is set at 30% with a 5% declining rate per year.
As the solar industry has been booming, economic benefits have been shared both domestically and internationally. The tariff case, initially brought forward by U.S. based solar manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, was filed under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, a safeguard for U.S. companies under threat from global competition. The final decision comes with a list of exempted nations These nations are those that the U.S. government deems "GSP eligible" developing nations. They current account for an extremely small portion of the U.S. solar imports. Interestingly, The Philippines and Thailand are not exempt, despite being GSP-Eligible.
As expected by many solar industry experts and economists, within a week of the tariff’s implementation, the European Union, Taiwan, South Korea, China, and Singapore have already filed complaints with the World Trade Organization. Both South Korea and China have mentioned demand for compensation in their filings. Neither Singapore or the EU have explicitly accused the U.S. of breaking WTO rules, although they are requesting immediate consultations. Specifically, Singapore, which has a highly developed free-market economy, wants to exchange views on the US safeguard measures that provide the basis for the tariff.
Chinese solar manufactures working on innovative, flexible solar panels
Closer to home, three Canadian solar manufactures are suing for exemption. The Canadian firms —Silfab Solar, Heliene and Canada Solar Solutions— state they will endure “immediate, severe, and irreversible injuries” due to the tariff in their lawsuit they have filed against the Trump Administration. The complaint, filed on February 7th, asserts the safeguard measure violates the Trade Act of 1974 and the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. This is because as ITC determined, Canada does not “account for a substantial share of total imports” or “contribute importantly to the serious injury, or threat thereof, caused by imports.” The Canadian firms are asserting their non-exemption from the tariff to be illegal.
In conclusion, only weeks after Trump’s decision, a multitude of claims are challenging the tariffs adherence to WTO guidelines, NAFTA regulations, and the Trade Act of 1974. Despite resistance of solar companies due to cost increases, it seems the legal standing of the trade restriction may capture headlines for now. In a time of high tensions regarding the U.S. Government, international trade, and renewable energy, Solbid will keep up with the most important solar news.