Imports boom as solar tariff deadline looms and ITC reaffirms position

Enlarge / A young woman looks at a photovoltaic installation at a booth at the InterSolar Europe trade fair in the southern German city of Munich on June 1, 2017. (credit: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

In anticipation of tariffs that may be levied on solar cell and module imports, foreign solar manufacturers doubled what they shipped to the US in November 2017 compared to November 2016. That’s according to trade data seen by The Wall Street Journal.

The trade data reflects that importers hope to take advantage of good market conditions before any tariffs are imposed. And a new report from the International Trade Commission (ITC) released last week suggests their efforts won’t be wasted. The new supplemental report offers (PDF) some additional support to the Trump administration if it tries to bring a tariff decision before the World Trade Organization (WTO). Specifically, the report suggests that China “took advantage of the existence of programs implemented by the US government to encourage renewable energy consumption” and that the US couldn’t have foreseen that market shift.

The solar cell and module tariffs in question will be decided on or before January 26 by President Donald Trump. The president is permitted to make any tariff decision he pleases if the International Trade Commission (ITC) finds that trade conditions harmed a certain US industry. In September 2017, the ITC made just such a finding, saying that US solar manufacturers had been harmed by cheap foreign imports of solar cells and modules.

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