On January 23, 2018, President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation imposing a safeguard tariff on solar panel components. The U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) released the following terms of the tariff:
As indicated in the terms, the tariff will not apply to the first 2.5 gigawatts of solar cells imported in each of the four years. However, the tariff will apply to countries that are currently exempt from certain tariffs—specifically, Canada, Mexico, and Korea.
The tariff-making process was triggered on May 17, 2017, when Suniva Inc. filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (the “ITC”) seeking relief from imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“CSPV”) cells. On May 25, 2017, SolarWorld Americas, Inc. joined as a co-petitioner.
In response, the ITC instituted an investigation to determine whether CSPV cells “are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or the threat thereof, to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported articles.” Based on information obtained during the investigation, the ITC concluded that increased foreign imports of CSPV cells are a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers.
Based on the ITC’s findings, and in consultation with the Trade Policy Committee, USTR made recommendations to the President, who had until January 26, 2018 to accept. The President issued a presidential proclamation implementing the recommended tariff on January 23, 2018, commenting,“[W]e’ll be making solar products now much more so in the United States. Our companies have been decimated, and those companies are going to be coming back strong.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer supported the proclamation, commenting, “The President’s action makes clear again that the Trump Administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard.” USTR also announced that it “will engage in discussions among interested parties that could lead to positive resolution of the separate antidumping and countervailing duty measures currently imposed on Chinese solar products and U.S. polysilicon.”