U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced yesterday that approximately $16 billion worth of imported Chinese products will be subject to a 25% tariff under a Section 301 ruling. Included with these products are solar cells and modules under the category “diodes for semiconductor devices, other than light-emitting diodes.”
President Trump first requested the tariffs on June 15. Customs and Border Protection will begin collection of the additional 25% duties on the Chinese imports on August 23.
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.”
“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 on June 15 when the additional tariffs were first proposed.
The U.S. solar industry has already enforced 30% tariffs on imported solar panels since February. Any Chinese imported cells or panels would now have 55% tariffs, in addition to antidumping/countervailing duties in place for the last few years. After the United States initiated significant antidumping duties in 2014 against Chinese and Taiwanese producers, many companies shifted their production facilities to other Asian countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The effect of this week’s new tariffs on Chinese imports will probably be slim.
Next on the government’s agenda related to solar is a potential 25% tariff on inverters, AC modules and non-lithium batteries. A decision should be made within the next month.