President Trump Goes After Duty Exemption for Bifacial Solar Modules, Wants 18% Duty

Trump also proclaimed to raise the safeguard tariff to 18% for the fourth year


President of the United States, Donald Trump, has signed a proclamation emphasizing his support to revoke the exclusion of several imported bifacial solar panels from safeguard duty imposition.

The President also asserted to raise the safeguard duty rate to 18% for the fourth year (2021) from the earlier 15% to achieve the full remedial effect anticipated for the action.

Last year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative issued an order exempting bifacial and a few other types of solar panels from the levy of safeguard duty.  The country had exempted bifacial solar panels that absorb light and generate electricity on each side of the panel and that consist of only bifacial solar cells that absorb light and generate electricity on each side of the cells; flexible fiberglass solar panels without glass components other than fiberglass, such panels having power outputs ranging from 250 to 900 watts. The USTR had also exempted solar panels consisting of solar cells arranged in rows that are laminated in the panel and that are separated by more than 10 mm, with an optical film spanning the gaps between all rows that are designed to direct sunlight onto the solar cells, and not including panels that lack optical film or only have a white or a backing layer that absorbs or scatters sunlight.

The United States had imposed a 30% safeguard tariff duty on imports of solar cells and modules in 2018, which was expected to drop down to 15% by 2022.

In its previous report, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) had said that following imposition of the safeguard measure, prices for crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells and modules declined in a manner consistent with historical trends but were higher than they would have been without the safeguard measure.

“The exclusion of bifacial panels from the application of the safeguard tariff has impaired and likely to continue to harm the effectiveness of the four-year action. In light of the increased imports of competing products such exclusion entails, and that it is necessary to revoke that exclusion and to apply safeguard tariff to bifacial panels,” said the President, in his statement.

“The domestic industry has begun to make a positive adjustment to import competition, shown by their increases in domestic module production capacity, production, and market share,” Trump added.

For CSPV cells, the ITC earlier found that imports had increased following the safeguard measure’s imposition and that major domestic CSPV cell producers ceased production, leading to declines in domestic CSPV cell production capacity and production.

The ITC said that excluding the bifacial solar modules from the safeguard tariff duty would likely enhance its imports. These imported bifacial solar modules will compete with locally manufactured crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules in the market, it added.

The report also suggested that increasing the tariff rate quota would help enhance solar module production growth. However, the expanded access to imported solar cells without any safeguard duty can impose downward pressure on the price of locally-manufactured solar cells and modules, it cautioned.

The modification would come into effect 15 days after the proclamation.