And the battle rages on, even after most of the main players have retired from the field.
As the January 26 deadline approaches for Trump to decide whether to impose tariffs on module and cell imports at the behest of bankrupt module maker Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, elected representatives are trying to whisper the last word in the president’s ear.
A group of eight representatives and another group of three senators have sent identical letters to President Donald Trump urging him to impose “strong and effective remedies” to protect solar module and cell manufacturing from foreign competition.
Interestingly, the geographic spread of the reflects the home base of one of the petitioners and the location of a significant factory of the other. Seven of the letters’ signatories hail from Oregon, where petitioner SolarWorld is located, or from Michigan, where bankrupt petitioner Suniva had a significant factory in Saginaw. The other four signatories are from Ohio, New Mexico and Texas.
Significantly absent from the list of signatories are any members of Congress from Georgia, where now-bankrupt Suniva was/is headquartered.
From the House, the signatories of their letter are Rep. Michael D. Bishop (MI-R), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-D), Rep. Daniel Kildee (MI-D), Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-R), Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-R), Rep. Kenny Marchant (TX-R), Rep. Earl Blumenaur (OR-D), and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-D). On the Senate side, Sen. Ron Wyden (OR-D), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR-D), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH-D) sent a letter.
“[T]o ensure electrical grid security, the United States cannot afford to become dependent on China and other countries for cutting edge [crystalline silicon photovoltaic] solar cell and module technology,” the Congresspeople wrote.
The odyssey of this Section 201 trade case began earlier this year, when Suniva filed for bankruptcy on April 18, filed trade complaints against its international competitors under Sections 201 and 202 of the Trade Act of 1974 with the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) eight days later.
Suniva requested “global safeguard relief” from imports of crystalline silicon solar PV cells and modules. SolarWorld joined the petition about a month later.
At this point in the process, the final decision rests solely in the hands of the president. The USITC has recommended imposing some sort of relief, although their recommendations were much less stringent than those asked for by the petitioners. But Trump is not bound by the USITC suggestions and can impose any penalty he wants – or none at all, if he so chose.
Trump must make his final decision on the final form of trade action by January 26.