Trump levies graduated tariffs starting at 30%, exempts 2.5 GW in cells

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced moments ago that President Trump has decided to impose safeguard tariffs on solar module and cell manufacturers for the next five years, starting at 30% and ending at 15% in Year 4.

The decision also exempts 2.5 GW of cell imports per year, which could keep around 14 U.S. solar module manufacturers identified by pv magazine in business. No current U.S. manufacturing facility currently produces its own cells, with the exception of Panasonic (at the Tesla Gigafactory in Buffalo) and SolarWorld.

Interestingly, the statement says the United States will continue discussing long-term solutions with interested parties that could resolve the separate antidumping and countervailing duty measures imposed on Chinese solar products, as a result of previous trade complaints brought by SolarWorld in 2012 and 2014, and retaliatory Chinese import duties on which have crippled the U.S. polysilicon industry.

“While I would have preferred to see the Trump Administration not impose any sanctions on foreign module manufacturers, which would have preserved the solar industry in its current form, the tariffs he decided to impose may slow, but will not stop the U.S. solar industry,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer, Standard Solar. “The solar industry has come through worse policy decisions and will come through this one, too.”

“The solar industry is nothing if not resilient, and I’m confident the innovative, tough and resourceful members of the industry will find workarounds to the latest obstacle placed in solar’s path,” Clifford said. “The Solar Century is here, and not even unfair tariffs will stand in its way.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) President and CEO, Abigail Ross Hopper expressed disappointment in the decision.

“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” Hopper said in a statement.

From the announcement, it was not clear which year Trump is using for the basis of the 30% tariff: the current year, or past years as SolarWorld and Suniva had proposed. It is also not clear which, if any, nations are exempt.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office responded to a pv magazine email and indicated there were no countries exempted from the solar tariff decision, although it wasn’t clear if Singapore was included.

This article was updated on 1/22/2018 at 5:29 pm to include comments from Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO.

This article was updated on 1/22/2018 at 6:58 pm to include information about the base year for the tariff calculation and potential tariff exemptions. It was also edited to make clear the U.S. Trade Representative had not responded to inquiries about specifics.

This article was updated on 1/22/2018 at 7:19 pm to include the U.S. Trade Representative’s response indicating there were no counties exempted from the solar tariffs.

This article was updated on 1/22/2018 at 7:30 pm to indicate the status of Singapore is currently unknown.