The tail-end of the Trump-era Sec. 201 tariffs on imported solar panels was chaotic for everyone. Originally enacted in 2018, 30% tariffs were placed on crystalline silicon cells and modules being imported into the United States. Imported bifacial panels were excluded from the tariffs in June 2019 due to there being no significant domestic manufacturing capacity of the specialty product. Then the U.S. Trade Representative removed their exclusion in October 2019. The U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT) put bifacial panels back on the exemption list in December 2019.
The U.S. Trade Representative came back in April 2020 and made bifacial modules taxed again. One month later, CIT said the panels could enter tariff-free. Then President Trump stepped in and removed bifacial’s exemption again in October 2020 through an executive order. Finally(ish), CIT reinstated bifacial’s exemption in November 2021 after determining the president’s executive order was unlawful. President Biden in February 2022 extended the Section 201 tariffs for four more years and kept bifacial panels exempt. Imported bifacial solar panels to the United States continue to be untariffed today.
A number of global solar panel manufacturers — Astronergy, Canadian Solar, JA Solar, JinkoSolar, Longi, Qcells, REC, Trina Solar and Waaree — filed separate cases in the U.S. CIT over the last few months seeking refunds on the “millions of dollars’ worth” of tariffs they paid on bifacial modules during that confusing period when the specialty panels lost their exemption under President Trump’s executive order.
The companies are demanding the refunds as they were “required to pay these safeguard duties which were subsequently determined to be unlawful.”
“The imposition of safeguard duties is an extraordinary act. Congress created a statutory scheme that is intended to balance the interests of all affected parties, and the procedures that Congress created for imposing and modifying safeguard measures were meant to be followed,” JA Solar said in its filing. “The President cannot ignore them or rewrite them himself in order to achieve his desired policy outcomes.”
Trina Solar is requesting that U.S. Customs and Border Protection “promptly refund, with interest, all increased safeguard duties collected” from Trina on bifacial modules between October 2020 and November 2021, and the increased tariff amount on all solar panels Trump included in his executive order. Astronergy and Canadian Solar submitted similar language. Qcells, JA Solar, Jinko, Longi, REC and Waaree did not specifically reference dates but did request tariffs paid be refunded with interest.
The companies had two years from the first unlawful tariff issuance to pursue action and filed within the respective timeline. Solar Power World will continue to follow this issue.
Oct. 20 update: Canadian Solar, Jinko, Longi and Waaree added to the list of companies filing separate cases.
Oct. 31 update: REC added to list.