In a message from SEIA to its members, the trade association confirmed that the federal government is considering adding an additional 25% tariff to Chinese solar panel imports under Section 301 of the Trade Act.
A Section 301 investigation allows the president to take all appropriate action to remove policies or practices of a foreign government that violate trade agreements or restrict U.S. commerce. In this instance, the United States found that China’s actions related to “technology, intellectual property and innovation are unreasonable and discriminatory and burden U.S. commerce.” The suggestion is to place duties on more Chinese goods.
In this investigation, solar cells and panels are listed under the category “8541.40.60: Diodes for semiconductor devices, other than light-emitting diodes.” While not explicitly referencing solar, other solar items have been referenced against that category code before. The potential new solar tariffs are subject to an additional review and are not official today by any means.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative will again hold a public notice and comment process, which likely won’t be completed for another two months. Then the office will make a final determination and could or could not initiate tariffs on Chinese solar cells and panels.
“Given the relatively small portion of cells and panels imported to the U.S. from China now due to the antidumping, countervailing and safeguard duties imposed on Chinese products, it is difficult to assess the effect additional duties would have on the U.S. market,” said SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper in an email message. “Regardless, SEIA views this as a negative development as it could cause harm to the U.S. market and will continue to fight against imposition of these tariffs.”
The U.S. solar industry has already been grappling with 30% tariffs on imported solar panels since February. A few Chinese panel manufacturers have announced U.S. manufacturing facilities to bypass the tariffs once the plants are complete. Would 55% total tariffs encourage or thwart more foreign manufacturing development in the United States?