As important as it was for the solar industry, the U.S.-China solar trade war was only a small part of a larger dynamic of trade between the two nations. In fact, the two sets of trade cases on cells and modules and subsequent Chinese tariffs on U.S. polysilicon are not even the only trade cases that impact the solar value chain.
In addition to U.S. and EU duties on solar glass, lesser known to those outside the construction industry is that U.S. import tariffs extend to the steel pipe used in racking for PV arrays, as one of a number of U.S. trade actions against China’s steel industry.
This week, U.S. trade authorities declined to investigate allegations that Chinese steel producers are circumventing these tariffs. These allegations were filed by a subsidiary of Zekelman Industries, which describes itself as the largest maker of steel pipe and related products in North America.
Furthermore, Zekelman alleges that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) failure to engage in an investigation “casts doubt on the agency’s willingness” to use a 2015 law to enhance import duty collection efforts.
Wheatland Tube, a division of Zekelman Industries, filed a allegation on September 14 that a company was evading anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties when it imported 57,000 metric tons circular welded carbon-quality steel pipe from China, which would have required cash deposits in excess of $81.5 million.
The filing was made under the Enforce and Protect Act of 2016, which was put into law in February as a means to enhance collection of import tariffs.
CBP declined to investigate the importer, noting that Wheatland’s allegation “did not reasonably suggest” evasion, only that the imports were made. However, Wheatland acknowledged that it did not have access to the confidential CBP import data that would be required to prove duty evasion.
“At the very least, we would like CBP to use the data that they have already collected regarding the importing of this product to determine if duties were properly paid,” said Zekelman Industries President David Seeger.