In a rare show of bipartisanship, Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee (Michigan) and Republican Rep. Rob Woodall (Georgia) have filed letters with the U.S. International Trade Commission in support of bankrupt module manufacturer Suniva’s attempts to get “global safeguard” protection from its Chinese competitors.
In other news, water is still wet, and the Pope is still Catholic.
As Suniva inched closer to bankruptcy, it closed its Michigan factory and laid off hundreds from its Atlanta headquarters. The factory was in Kildee’s district, while the headquarters was Woodall’s. In their letter, the Congressmen cite those job losses as reasons the International Trade Commission (ITC) should find in Suniva’s favor.
“American manufacturers like Suniva are unable to fairly compete with their international counterparts,” reads the letter. “As a result, we have experienced the loss of hundreds of jobs in our districts.”
The pair urge Lisa Barton, the secretary of the ITC, make the injury decision “as expeditiously as possible.”
It’s unclear how much influence the Congressmen’s letter will have, but it does comport with the Trump Administration’s support for protectionist trade actions.
It’s undeniable that plunging module prices have created a difficult business climate for module manufacturers around the world. It’s also true that all but two of the Top 10 are Chinese. As margins have shrunk, it has put immense pressure on U.S. manufacturers to compete.
Suniva filed for bankruptcy on April 18 and filed under Sections 201 and 202 of the Trade Act of 1974 with the ITC eight days later. It asks for “global safeguard relief” from imports of crystalline silicon solar PV cells and modules, despite being majority-owned by Shunfeng International Clean Energy, a Chinese company. Naturally, Shunfeng – which also owns Suntech – opposes Suniva’s petition.
Earlier this week, SolarWorld Americas – facing its own financial challenges – joined Suniva’s petition. SolarWorld Americas has also expressed strong support for Trump’s bellicose rhetoric on trade policy.
The petition has been roundly condemned as being potentially disastrous for the U.S. solar industry, with a report by IHS Markit warning that if the petition is successful, it could result in a 60% constriction in the U.S. market by 2021.