In what may be a last-ditch effort to persuade the Trump Administration not to impose severe tariffs on imported solar cells and modules, 27 members of the solar racking-and-mounting segment pleaded with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer not to put their more than 5,700 employees’ jobs at risk.
The letter may have arrived too late to influence the decision, however, as it was sent amid reports that Trump is expected to receive recommendations on Friday that will implore him to levy massive tariffs and/or quotas on solar cell and module imports.
Still, the racking-and-mounting manufacturers argued their case the strongest of terms. The letter said that, as one of the three pillars of U.S. solar installations, the segment would be devastated if U.S. market growth was slowed by fewer imports.
“We write to emphasize that we are manufacturing today one of the three pillars of manufactured products for the solar industry, and we are doing so in America,” the manufacturers wrote. “As the industry grows, we intend to continue to hire thousands of U.S. workers. Such growth is gravely threatened by high levels of tariffs in this trade case.”
The letter also warned that layoffs in the racking and mounting segment could occur if tariffs are imposed.
“We want to continue to manufacture competitive, high-quality products in the [United States] for U.S. customers, rather than cutting operations or laying off workers,” the letter continued. “On behalf of our 5,700 workers and the many more we plan to hire in the coming years, make the right choice in avoiding tariffs on solar modules and allowing us and the solar sector to continue to thrive.”
This is the second time the racking-and-mounting manufacturers expressed their concerns and objections to imposing tariffs. Last summer, they penned a letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission expressing similar concerns as were expressed in yesterday’s missive.
The letter comes against the backdrop of strong disputes about the actual impact of trade remedies on solar employment.
Suniva, the bankrupt module manufacturer that initially brought the trade complaint, and SolarWorld, which joined the complaint a month after its filing, dispute predictions of lost jobs. In fact, the pair commissioned their own study, which found the tariffs would actually increase jobs by more than 100,000.
Their assessment is not shared by major market analysts. Both GTM and IHS have predicted that SolarWorld’s proposal for tariffs and quotas would shrink the U.S. solar market significantly. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has warned that this could cost at least 88,000 jobs, particularly in downstream segments of the industry.