The Trump Administration’s trade war with China and the rest of the world has created a continual environment of uncertainty within the solar industry, and today was no exception. Today U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump has ordered him to consider raising duties to 25% on the list of imports from China which were announced on July 10. This list included inverters, AC modules and lithium-ion batteries.
No definitive decision appears to have been made at this time as to whether or not to increase the duty rate, and the final decision as to whether to include any particular product line under the Section 301 duties has not yet been made. Nor is this action specific to the solar industry, as there are hundreds of individual products which could be subject to tariffs, including many agricultural and chemical products.
The duties appear to be part of an escalation of the trade war that the Trump Administration is engaged in, as referenced in Lighthizer’s statement.
The Trump Administration continues to urge China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition. We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake. Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.
Lighthizer notes that interested parties may address this potential increase in import duties in their comments, and the period to make comments has been extended to September 5. The due date of requests to appear at the public hearing on this latest round of Section 301 duties has also been pushed back to August 13.
The public hearing will be held on August 20-23.
Regardless, some inverter makers were already taking steps that could insulate them from the tariffs. While there was no explicit mention of U.S. duties, Sungrow has opened a 3 GW inverter fab in India, and in its latest quarterly results Enphase announced that it plans to engage an additional contract manufacturer outside of China.