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NEW BID FOR SOLAR DUTIES: Just days after President Joe Biden extended solar import tariffs, the Commerce Department is again being asked to side with domestic solar manufacturers over other domestic solar firms that rely on imported products.
California-based Auxin Solar Inc., which manufactures solar cells, accused cell and module manufacturers in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia of circumventing existing duties on imports from China, or functionally acting as pass-throughs for Chinese products that would otherwise be subject to such duties.
Auxin asked Commerce to “promptly initiate an anti-circumvention inquiry concerning solar products assembled and completed in other nations using Chinese produced inputs” in a request to the department earlier this week.
The prequel: Recall how the most recent anti-dumping and countervailing duties battle shaped up. A group of domestic solar product manufacturers, which called itself American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention, petitioned Commerce to take the same action against imports from those countries (although Cambodia was not among the targets).
Commerce eventually came back and said the petitioners would have to identify themselves in order for the department to continue forward with the process, but A-SMACC never moved. That decision effectively put an end to their petition effort.
Breaking down the case: This new petition revives the argument brought forward in that case, which is that most of the heavy lifting on cell and module products from listed countries is actually accomplished in China and that they should be subject to duties just as Chinese imports are.
Auxin makes the case that it and like domestic manufacturers suffer injury from these imports and, moreover, that inputs in the products are generated in a country with forced labor and that reliance on China conflicts with U.S. climate change goals, due to its heavy reliance on coal.
What opponents are saying: What Auxin’s petition asks for would amount to an “abuse” of U.S. trade law and would not achieve the desired ends of making more of these products at home, said John Smirnow, general counsel and vice president of market strategy for the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“Tariffs are not how you grow a solar manufacturing base,” Smirnow, whose trade group represents firms across the solar industry, told Jeremy. “They’re not designed to incentivize companies to build factories to expand capacity… They’re not an industrial policy growth tool.”
Smirnow also argued the request fails to demonstrate that targeted exports reach the threshold which Commerce generally uses for imposing these kinds of duties.
“If you’re doing cell manufacturing and module manufacturing together, or selling independently, it is a significant manufacturing operation, and for the government to conclude otherwise, [would go] against a decade of precedent,” he said.
Solar politics: Auxin’s request puts the Biden administration back in the position of, at least superficially, making a choice between domestic solar manufacturers and foreign ones, upon whose products many solar firms rely.
Finding a balance between the two to please all parties has been difficult, because the administration wants solar technology deployed rapidly to cut greenhouse gas emissions on the one hand, and domestic solar firms aren’t manufacturing at a scale …….