On October 10, 2020, President Donald Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation announcing further action to safeguard domestic production of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells (i.e., solar cells). In June 2018, the president implemented tariffs on imports of certain solar cells (see Update of January 23, 2018) under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 for a four-year period. The tariffs started at 30 percent the first year but were set to decrease 5 percent annually. The remedy implemented in 2018 excluded certain types of solar cells, such as 2.5 gigawatts (GW) CSPV cells.
In March 2020, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) issued a report addressing the probable economic effect on the domestic solar cell manufacturing industry of modifying the Section 201 safeguard measure to increase the level of the tariff rate quotas (TRQ) on CSPV cells from the current 2.5 GW to 4.0, 5.0, or 6.0 GW. The USITC advised that increasing the TRQ “would help to continue growth in solar module production but that expanded access to imported cells not subject to safeguard duties would put downward pressure on prices for United States cells.” The report concluded that “the exclusion of bifacial modules from the safeguard measure will likely result in substantial increases in imports of bifacial modules if such exclusion remains in effect” and that these bifacial modules would compete with domestically produced CSPV products and “apply significant downward pressure on prices of domestically produced CSPV modules.”
Accordingly, the Presidential Proclamation announced that while the domestic industry “has begun to make positive adjustment to import competition,” modifications to the safeguards are necessary for imports of CSPV cells under Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) subheading 8541.40.6025 and other CSPV products, such as modules under HTS subheading 8541.40.6015. The proclamation revokes the exemption from the tariffs for bifacial modules and adjusts the duty rate of the safeguard tariff for the fourth year of the safeguard measure to 18 percent instead of the previously scheduled rate of 15 percent.