The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted unanimously that there has been significant injury in Suniva/SolarWorld’s Section 201 trade petition, moving the case on to the new phase when the USITC will recommend what sanctions it believes should be imposed.
The 4-0 decision allows the imposition of tariffs or other trade remedies on cell and module imports on a global basis, however separate determinations were made for countries with specific trade agreements. USITC found injury from imports from Mexico and Korea, but not Canada or Singapore, meaning that it will not recommend trade remedies against cells or modules from Canada or Singapore.
Additionally the agency found no significant injury caused by imports from Australia, Colombia, Jordan, Panama, Peru and Central American nations, and these are likely to be exempt from proposed trade remedies; however none of these nations possess significant cell or module manufacturing capacities.
Suniva hailed the decision as a victory for the cell and module manufacturing segment of the industry.
“Suniva is gratified that the USITC has found that a surge of imports into the U.S. has decimated the American CSPV cell and module manufacturing industry,” the company said in a written statement. “We brought this action because the U.S. solar manufacturing industry finds itself at the precipice of extinction at the hands of foreign market overcapacity.”
“The USITC has agreed, and now it will be in President Trump’s hands to decide whether America will continue to have the capability to manufacture this energy source,” the company said. “President Trump can remedy this injury with relief that ensures U.S. energy dominance that includes a healthy U.S. solar ecosystem and prevents China and its proxies from owning the sun.”
Installers, along with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), expressed disappointment in the outcome.
“The ITC’s decision is disappointing for nearly 9,000 U.S. solar companies and the 260,000 Americans they employ,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “Foreign-owned companies that brought business failures on themselves are attempting to exploit American trade laws to gain a bailout for their bad investments.”
“Analysts say Suniva’s remedy proposal will double the price of solar installations, destroy two-thirds of demand, erode billions of dollars in investment and unnecessarily force 88,000 Americans to lose their jobs in 2018,” Hopper said.
“Anyone closely involved with watching how this trade petition wended its way through the U.S. International Trade Commission process always had a sneaking suspicion the final decision would end up with President Donald J. Trump,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer for Maryland-based installer Standard Solar.
“The ITC did its due diligence and, after much deliberation, decided these two foreign-owned module makers were indeed harmed by module imports from other countries—but fortunately, today’s decision is only the beginning, not the ending, of the story.”
Now the case moves into the remedies phase, when the USITC will determine what remedies should be imposed on internationally manufactured solar cells and modules. The co-petitioners are asking a minimum import price starting at $0.78 per watt for modules and $0.40 for cells.
“As the remedy phase moves forward, I am determined to reach a conclusion that will protect the solar industry, our workers and the American public from what amounts to a shakedown by these two companies,” Hopper said. “An improper remedy will devastate the burgeoning American solar economy and ultimately harm America’s manufacturers and 36,000 people currently engaged in solar manufacturing that don’t make cells and panels.”
“Now the ITC begins its deliberations about what remedies should be imposed on imports, and this will be where the real effects on the industry will be determined,” Clifford said. “I hope the ITC will conclude only minimal or no tariff increases are necessary. Otherwise, the U.S. solar industry could lose 88,000 or more jobs.”
“I’d also remind President Trump that two-thirds of the solar jobs in America do not require any college education. Losing 88,000 jobs, most of which are blue collar, is a lot for the American economy—and President Trump’s base in particular—to absorb.”
Update: This article was updated at 3:30 PM EST on September 22 to provide more information on the nations subject to and exempt from injury findings under today’s ruling.