Restraining Order Thwarts Trump's Move to Remove Exemption on Bifacial Solar Modules

A trade court in the United States has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s bid to revoke the exclusion of imported bifacial solar panels from safeguard duty imposition.

According to Bloomberg, the judge issued the order weeks after President Donald Trump moved to eliminate a tariff exemption for bifacial panels. For more than a year, the government had tried to revoke the exemption, only to get repeatedly thwarted by the trade court.

Judge Gary Katzmann from the Court of International Trade issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the revocation of the tariff exemption for two weeks lest the court takes another decision. The temporary restraining order was issued ahead of the October 25, 2020, deadline to allow the 201 bifacial exemption to continue.

An ongoing investigation is underway to see which industries could be included for a tariff and what that tariff might be. According to Roth Capital Partners, the investigation is supposed to be completed in 3-4 months, around January or February 2021.


Roth Capital added that Vietnam, one of the countries on the list, has been deemed a currency manipulator under Section 301.

Background

Earlier this month, President Trump 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 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.

Earlier in April 2020, The Office of the United States Trade Representative had withdrawn the exclusion of bifacial solar panels from safeguard measures applicable on imported panels. The revocation will be effective, starting from May 18, 2020. In its notice, the USTR said that in January, it started looking into whether to maintain, withdraw, or take some other action concerning the exclusion of bifacial solar panels from the safeguard measure.