On Tuesday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) held its long-awaited first hearing on the Section 201 trade case in Washington, D.C. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which has led a major campaign against the case, claims hundreds of U.S. solar workers rallied in D.C. to attend the packed hearing.
The ITC heard testimony from various stakeholders as the agency continues working to determine whether solar imports are causing “serious injury” to domestic manufacturers. The agency initially launched its safeguard investigation in May after bankrupt manufacturer Suniva filed a Section 201 petition seeking new global tariffs and minimum prices on crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells and modules imported into the U.S. Oregon-based SolarWorld Americas later joined the case as a co-petitioner, and both companies argue that cheap imports into the U.S., namely from Chinese-owned companies, make it difficult to compete.
In its petition, Suniva proposed an initial import tariff of $0.40/W per CSPV cell and a minimum import price of $0.78/W per CSPV module (which is inclusive of the $0.40/W cell tariff). Several analysts say that would double the current price of solar modules, making modules imported into the U.S. the most expensive in the world. In addition, the Section 201 petition would apply to all foreign-made CSPV imports, rather than focus on products from a particular country.
In June, SEIA released an analysis claiming 88,000 U.S. solar jobs would be lost next year if the ITC imposes the requested trade protections. More recently, Suniva and SolarWorld released an analysis of their own claiming the trade protections would create, not kill, at least 114,800 new U.S. jobs.
In the lead-up to the Tuesday ITC hearing, leaders from both sides of the argument made a final push: For example, the co-petitioners touted an ITC staff report finding that nearly 30 U.S. CSPV manufacturing sites have closed down since 2012, and SEIA helped organize a bipartisan effort from 69 Congress members calling on the ITC to reject the requested tariffs.
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