President Donald Trump’s decision about whether to impose tariffs on imported solar cells could cause rippling impacts across the industry. The situation began to unfold back in the spring of 2017 when solar manufacturer Suniva declared bankruptcy then petitioned the ITC for assistance. Suniva was joined in their efforts by SolarWorld USA, adding additional weight to the claim. As a brief overview, the requested assistance would have four parts:
Tariffs on imported cells
A share of money distributed to domestic producers from duty deposits currently held by the US government
The creation of an economic investment program
Negotiations to restore the global supply and demand balance
The ITC can make recommendations under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, which is intended to protect US industries from serious injury caused by surging imports. After considering the issue, the ITC voted unanimously in favor of Suniva and SolarWorld on September 22nd, 2017.
The reaction from many other key players in the solar manufacturing industry was highly critical of the decision. Two major issues voiced by the opposition were that imposing tariffs would damage American jobs and increase the cost of solar cells. Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), was particularly critical of the decision. She raised multiple concerns, including:
“Analysts say Suniva’s remedy proposal will double the price of solar, destroy two-thirds of demand, erode billions of dollars in investment and unnecessarily force 88,000 Americans to lose their jobs in 2018.”