U.S. Trade Panel Proposes Duties of Up to 35% in Solar Case

Written by Ari Natter. This article first appeared in Bloomberg News.

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

In addition to tariffs, one member of the independent U.S. agency also suggested quantitative restrictions on the imports. The agency, which had earlier voted unanimously that U.S. solar manufacturers were being harmed by imports, divided on what recommendations they proposed to send to Trump, who must make the final decision in January.

Chairman Rhonda Schmidtlein proposed tariffs of 35 percent on solar modules and 30 percent on solar cells.

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

Under the trade case brought by bankrupt Georgia panel manufacturer Suniva Inc. in April, each of the four members of the commission can make their recommendation to the president on the remedy to address a glut of cheap solar cells.

The company, which has been joined in the case by the U.S. unit of bankrupt German panel maker SolarWorld AG, has sought tariffs of 25 cents a watt for solar cells, a floor price for panels of 74 cents a watt, and duties of 32 cents a watt for imported cells that have been assembled into panels.

Solar panel prices have fallen to about 32 cents a watt, which means Suniva’s proposed duty would double the cost of a panel.

Much of the U.S. solar industry opposes tariffs, arguing that inexpensive foreign panels have driven a boom in clean energy projects and created tens of thousands of installation jobs.

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