The U.S.–China trade deal on solar recently took yet another turn. The Trump administration reverses the exemption for bifacial module imports under Section 201 it granted in June, according to the Reuters.
In a statement published online, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) says that they will withdraw bifacial solar modules from the exemption of Section 201. This withdrawal is due to take effect on Oct. 28.
Such policy change, according to Bloomberg, will have repercussions on the U.S. PV companies, which has been leveraging the exemption to cushion themselves against the influence of the tariffs imposed on foreign solar panels. However, the biggest U.S. solar panel makers First Solar and SunPower will regain their competitive edge, as their respective stock has climbed since the withdrawal decision was announced on Oct. 4.
The following timeline details key moments in the U.S. trade policy on imported bifacial modules:
The U.S. introduced the Section 201 safeguard measures.
January 22, 2018
President Trump implemented a four-year safeguard tariff on imported tariff rate quotas on solar cells and module imports. The tariffs begin at 30% for the first year and will step down by 5% per year over the four-year period. This safeguard measure was imposed based on a Section 201 investigation.
June 12, 2019
The USTR published a Federal Register Notice that included bifacial modules in a list of imports excluded from the Section 201 tariffs. This exclusion meant that companies will no longer pay 25% tariff imposed on bifacial module imports.
Yet, even though modules imported from China were excluded from the Section 201 tariffs, they were still subject to a tax of over 37%, which spanned the 27.64%–49.79% (adjusted) antidumping and countervailing duties slapped in 2012 and the 10% tariff imposed on USD 200 billion-worth of Chinese goods (including PV products) since Sept. 24, 2018. The safeguard measures will benefit manufacturing lines across Southeast Asia.
The U.S. government released the results of the fifth round of AD/CVD investigation into Chinese solar modules, levying the modules with AD/CVD duties at historically new low rates.
After the U.S. government announced the exemption of bifacial modules from Section 201 in June, a U.S.-based renewable energy analyst predicted that “U.S. companies are going back to the days of hustling with their Chinese rivals.” Although the Section 201 exemption had ramifications for U.S. firms, it went down well with the Solar Energy Industries Association as it would “accelerate the adoption of bifacial technology in the United States, which is still in a relatively early stage.” Exactly the same sentiments were expressed in document submitted by the USTR, which articulated a willingness to introduce further tariff exemptions so as to promote the development of clean energy in the U.S.
In fact, Chinese PV producers brace themselves for the whims of the Trump administration and cope with them philosophically whenever they strike. The U.S. market is expected to be primarily served by bifacial capacities in Southeast Asia and countries outside of China.
Source: PV Men
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