Trump's Move to Remove Duty Exemption for Bifacial Solar Modules Challenged

The United States President Donald Trump’s attempts to revoke the exclusion of imported bifacial solar panels from safeguard duty imposition may have failed.

President Trump had earlier asserted to raise the safeguard duty rate to 18% for the fourth year (2021) from the earlier 15% to achieve the full remedial effect. A Presidential Proclamation was issued earlier this month on crystalline silicon cells. The proclamation withdrew the Section 201 tariff exemption for bifacial panels in 15 days (unless there is a judicial intervention).

Since the bifacial exemption was determined to impair solar cell tariffs’ effectiveness, it increases the tariff rate for the fourth year of the safeguard to 18% from 15%. Further, the proclamation delegates authority to the United States Trade Regulation to extend the solar cell and module safeguard duty beyond the current expiration in February 2022.

According to Roth Capital, on October 15, 2020, two filings were submitted regarding section 201 against this proclamation. Under the first filing, Judge Katzmann ruled against the government in its attempt to remove the bifacial exemption. Roth Capital said that with Judge Katzmann involved in this case, he might rule against the government within the 15-day deadline and continue to allow the 201 bifacial exemption.


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.

 

Image credit: Shealah Craighead, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons