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Solar Section 201 Case - Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a Section 201 Case?
What is the timeline for this case?
What did Suniva ask for in its petition to the ITC?
What is SEIA's position?
What is SEIA doing?
How can I get involved or contribute to this campaign?
Is there an appeals process?
Is there precedent for this case?
Could tariffs be placed retroactively?
How many overall U.S. solar manufacturing jobs are there and how many manufacturing jobs are represented by the petition?
What impact would this have on the cost of solar?
How will Congress/politicians in Washington influence this process?
How does this case relate to previous anti-dumping/countervailing trade cases for the solar industry?

What is a Section 201 Case?

Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act is the United States’ “global safeguard” law. It allows for temporary relief in situations where surging imports are causing “serious injury” to a U.S. industry. An industry representative may petition the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC or Commission) to conduct an investigation into whether imports are causing such injury and recommend remedies.

What is the timeline for this case?

The petition was properly filed by Suniva on May 17, 2017. The first phase of the case involves the ITC’s determination on “injury,” which the ITC must render by September 22, 2017. If injury is found, a “remedy” phase is initiated, during which the ITC must deliver a transmittal report to the president by November 13, 2017 containing any relief recommendations. The president then has until January 12, 2018 to decide whether to accept the ITC’s recommendation and impose that relief, impose alternative relief, or not impose any relief.

What did Suniva ask for in its petition to the ITC?

As filed, the petition asks for four forms of relief for imported CSPV cells:

  • A tariff and minimum import price on imports that evolves over four years as follows:*
    • $0.40/watt per CSPV cell, with a minimum import price of $0.78/watt per module (year 1)
    • $0.37/watt per CSPV cell, with a minimum import price of $0.72/watt per module (year 2)
    • $0.34/watt per CSPV cell, with a minimum import price of $0.69/watt per module (year 3)
    • $0.33/watt per CSPV cell, with a minimum import price of $0.68/watt per module (year 4)
  • A share of money distributed to domestic producers from the duty deposits currently being held by the US government as a result of the AD/CVD proceedings on CSPV cells and modules from China and Taiwan.
  • Creation of an economic investment development program, managed by the Commerce Department and funded with any safeguard duties collected by the U.S. government.
  • Bilateral and multilateral negotiations by the U.S. government to reduce global excess capacity and restore a supply and demand balance in the global market.

*The minimum import prices for modules are inclusive of the cell tariffs.

What is SEIA’s position?

We believe that the imposition of tariffs and price floors for imported CSPV cells and modules would damage the entire solar industry. The proposed tariff could double the price of solar panels in the U.S., crippling demand and costing 88,000 jobs in the industry. As one the least expensive energy sources in America, solar is a major force in the U.S. economy, spurring billions of dollars in investment each year. This incredible growth will be stopped in its tracks if this petition prevails. GTM has estimated that Suniva’s sought after protections would slash new solar projects by two-thirds, or a total of 47 gigawatts by 2022. That’s more solar than has ever been built in the U.S.

What is SEIA doing?

SEIA has kicked off the Save America’s Solar Jobs campaign and is engaging on multiple fronts to fight this case, including: engaging in the legal proceedings with the ITC; directly lobbying members of Congress and other policymakers; building a broad coalition of partners; conducting research to determine potential impacts; and educating the public on the need for free and fair trade policies.

How can I get involved or contribute to this campaign?

If you’re an employee at a solar company, the most important thing you can do is join SEIA. We need the entire industry behind us to effectively win this fight. If you’re already a member of SEIA, consider sponsoring our Save America’s Solar Jobs campaign to help in our efforts and stay informed and engaged in SEIA’s ongoing efforts. You can also sign up for our campaign as an individual, and donate directly to the cause.

Is there an appeals process?

Both the ITC and president have broad discretion in rendering their decisions. Any appeal within the U.S. legal system would, thus, face an uphill battle and be narrowly limited to a misapplication of law claim. At the international level, however, actions under this case may be appealed to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and should a remedy be enacted that is not favored by the solar industry, it is highly likely that a WTO appeal will be made. Note that an appeal to the WTO may only be brought by a sovereign nation(s). During the pendency of a WTO appeal, it is likely that the relief ordered by the president will remain in place.

Is there precedent for this case?

In the last Section 201 investigation, i.e., Steel (Investigation No. TA-201-73, December 2001), then-president George W. Bush placed tariffs up to 30% on imported steel that were originally intended to stay in effect until 2005. However, the Bush administration ultimately withdrew the tariffs early given a WTO challenge and the administration’s conclusion that the safeguard measures had achieved their purpose. Since Section 201 is viewed as a relatively blunt instrument for trade policy, it is rarely used and does not carry significant precedent.

Could tariffs be placed retroactively?

While the president has broad discretion in applying remedies, the general rule is that for any remedy to apply prior to action by the president, the petitioner would have to make a case to the ITC for “critical circumstances,” alleging that there are damages happening immediately requiring an even more expedited proceeding and finding. To date, there has been no such claim by the petitioner.

How many overall U.S. solar manufacturing jobs are there and how many manufacturing jobs are represented by the petition?

According the The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, there are 38,121 solar manufacturing jobs in the United States. These jobs include those who manufacture industry components other than solar cells and modules, including, e.g., racking systems and inverters, which have been steadily adding jobs over the last several years. SEIA is compiling case studies of these manufacturers, titled Profiles in American Solar Manufacturing. Many of these jobs, as well as the more than 200,000 other jobs in the industry in professions ranging from installation and distribution to legal and financial support, would be directly threatened by the price increases that would result from the remedies requested by Suniva. In contrast, the cell manufacturing sector covered by the petition employs less than 1,000 people.

What impact would this have on the cost of solar?

According to ClearView Energy Partners and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the proposed tariff and price floors would double the price of solar panels in the United States. Estimates from ClearView Energy Partners place the potential price increases even higher, at 98% - 162%.

How will Congress/politicians in Washington influence this process?

There is no formal role for Congress in this proceeding, as Section 201 gives full authority to the Executive Branch. However, SEIA is working to educate and work closely with members of Congress to ensure that the solar industry has strong advocates in both Chambers that can advise the president and his staff on the potential impacts of a remedy in this case.

How does this case relate to previous anti-dumping/countervailing trade cases for the solar industry?

In this case, unlike the AD/CVD case in 2012, the petitioners are making no claim that anyone was dumping product, or that anyone did anything wrong. Essentially the petitioners are seeking emergency trade protections from competition from every other country in the world.