Friday, November 3, 2017

October 31 ITC Section 201 Remedies Decision


On October 31, the International Trade Commission (ITC) released its recommended  remedies following its September finding of “serious injury” to domestic solar cell and module manufactures by foreign imports. The Commission made three recommendations, all of which were less burdensome on importers than what Suniva and Solar World Americas were seeking in their original Section 201 petition.

Chairman Rhonda Schmidtlein had the most stringent proposal, recommending a tariff-rate quota of 500 megawatts on solar cells, with imports within the quota subject to a 10 percent tariff and imports beyond the quota subject to a 30 percent tariff.  Schmidtlein recommended a tariff of 35 percent on all modules, with the tariffs on cells and modules each decreasing incrementally by 1 percent over a four year period.  Two Commissioners made a joint recommendation similar to Schmidtlein, proposing a tariff-rate quota on solar cells of 30 percent on imports beyond a 1,000 megawatts quota and a tariff of 30 percent on all imported modules.  Their recommended tariffs would also decrease incrementally by 5 percent each year over the same period.

The third proposal by Commissioner Meredith Broadbent recommended an 8.9 gigawatt quota on cells and modules which would increase by 1.4 gigawatts each year over the next four years.  For cells and modules from Mexico, Broadbent recommended a 720 megawatt quota, increasing by 115 megawatt each year over the four year period.  Broadbent goes further than her colleagues and recommends that the President administers the quota  by selling import licenses at a public auction at a minimum prior of 1 cent per watt.

Suniva issued a public statement criticizing the ITC’s proposed remedies calling them “disappointing” in light of “the damage suffered by this American high-tech manufacturing sector from what has been a tidal wave of imports.”  While the ITC’s recommended tariffs were far from what was originally asked for by Suniva and Solar World Americas, Solar Energy Industries Association stated that the “proposed tariffs would be intensely harmful to our industry.”

The ITC will formalize its recommendations to the President in their November 13 report.   It is entirely within President Trump’s discretion to adopt any of the ITC’s recommendations or another combination of tariffs and import quotas.  He will have until January 12 to make his decision. Until then, the industry can only speculate what route the President will take.