US solar manufacturers seek tariffs on Southeast Asian imports to protect domestic industry

By:
on Apr 24, 2024
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  • These imports are allegedly being dumped at below-cost prices or are subsidized.
  • President Joe Biden temporarily waived the imposition of tariffs on these products until June.
  • The global solar panel market has seen prices drop nearly 50% in 2023 as production capacity surged.

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U.S. solar manufacturers are calling for tariffs on imports from Southeast Asia, claiming unfair competition threatens the domestic market.

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Coalition petitions for trade action against four countries

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A coalition of American solar companies, including industry leaders like First Solar, Convalt Energy, and Qcells, has formally requested the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate and confirm the damage inflicted on the U.S. industry by solar cell imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These imports are allegedly being dumped at below-cost prices or are subsidized, undermining U.S. manufacturers.

What are the allegations?

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The petitioners argue that the targeted companies, primarily headquartered in China, are benefiting from subsidies provided by the Chinese government under its Belt and Road Initiative.

This strategy, they claim, involves relocating manufacturing operations to the four Southeast Asian nations to circumvent existing U.S. tariffs.

Response to the tariff waiver and future measures

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President Joe Biden temporarily waived the imposition of tariffs on these products until June.

However, the petitioners believe that most imports will not be affected by tariffs once the waiver expires, due to the strategic shift in manufacturing bases.

The Commerce Department’s investigations, initiated following these allegations, are set to run for about 12 months, with preliminary determinations expected in four to six months.

Industry divided over proposed tariffs

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The move to impose tariffs has not been universally welcomed within the U.S. solar sector.

Key trade groups like the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Council on Renewable Energy have expressed concerns that these tariffs could lead to market instability and uncertainty, adversely affecting the U.S. solar and storage industry during a critical period of growth.

Impact on global solar market and U.S. energy strategy

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The global solar panel market has seen prices drop nearly 50% in 2023 as production capacity surged, largely dominated by Chinese companies.

This glut has resulted in a significant stockpile of solar modules in the U.S., complicating the market dynamics further.

Despite these challenges, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has indicated that the Biden administration is open to imposing tariffs on subsidized clean energy exports from China as a measure to level the playing field.

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