Thu, Nov 02, 2017 - Page 10 News List

USITC proposes duties of up to 35% in solar case


Members of the US International Trade Commission (USITC) recommended tariffs on imported solar modules of as much as 35 percent, as they discussed what remedies they would propose to US President Donald Trump in a trade case that could upend the US$29 billion US solar industry.

The tariff proposals are lower than requested by Suniva Inc, the bankrupt solar manufacturer that filed the case in April.

The agency, which had earlier voted unanimously that US solar manufacturers were being harmed by cheap imports, was divided on what recommendations they proposed to send to Trump.

USITC Chair Rhonda Schmidt-lein proposed tariffs of 35 percent on solar modules and as much as 30 percent on solar cells beyond an initial lower-duty quota.

Commissioners David Johanson and Irving Williamson proposed a 30 percent duty on solar cells beyond 1 gigawatt of imports.

In both cases the duties would last for four years, but decrease in regular intervals over that period.

The fourth commissioner, Meredith Broadbent, recommended global import quotas set at 8.9 gigawatts for the first year and increasing by 1.4 gigawatts annually over the same period.

Trump has wide discretion to adopt one of the commissioner’s recommendations — or to adopt something else, or nothing at all. His decision deadline is Jan. 12.

Suniva was joined in the case by the US unit of bankrupt German panel maker SolarWorld AG.

Suniva sought tariffs of US$0.25 a watt for solar cells, a floor price for panels of US$0.74 a watt, and duties of US$0.32 a watt for imported cells.

Solar panel prices have fallen to about US$0.32 a watt, which means Suniva’s proposed duty would double the cost of a panel.

The US solar industry let out a collective sigh of relief that the commissioners’ proposals are less than half what Suniva is seeking.

Other US solar companies had been bracing for higher duties, which they said would have disrupted the US$29 billion industry.

Some developers were already stocking up on inventory in anticipation of higher costs and halting construction on projects because of pricing uncertainty.

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