The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has determined that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells (whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products) are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury to the U.S. solar equipment industry. After its 4-0 vote, the ITC must now undertake the remedy phase of the investigation. The ITC will hold a public hearing on October 3, 2017 and submit a report containing its injury determination, remedy recommendations, certain additional findings and the basis for them to President Trump by November 13, 2017. The president is solely responsible for any final decision on whether to impose a remedy and, if so, the form, amount and duration of the remedy. In determining what action to take, if any, the president will also take into account the U.S. industry’s efforts to make a positive adjustment to import competition, factors related to the national economic interest of the United States and certain other statutory factors.
This investigation was initiated under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. Section 201 investigations are often referred to as “global safeguard investigations” and are not country-specific, targeting instead imports of the product under investigation from all sources. When a petition or request is filed, the ITC must determine whether an article is being imported in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury or threat of serious injury to a U.S. industry.
The complaint was filed in April 2017 by two U.S. solar equipment manufacturers – Suniva, Inc. and SolarWorld Americas, Inc. – who argued that nearly 30 U.S. solar panel producers ceased manufacturing operations from 2012 to 2016, the period of investigation in the case, largely due to a five-fold increase of imports into the United States. This surge was led by China, whose shipments to the United States rose by more than 700 percent, according to ITC data gathered during the investigation. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry that represents installers, project developers, manufacturers, contractors, financiers and nonprofits, opposed the investigation, arguing that any tariff imposed as a remedy could double U.S. solar panel prices and significantly reduce demand for solar energy. The SEIA argued that up to 88,000 solar jobs, a third of the industry’s employment, could ultimately be lost since only a fraction of solar jobs are in manufacturing.