Suniva’s trade complaint can make Trump master of Chinese solar’s US fate

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Credit: Flickr/Luke Price.

Bankrupt US firm Suniva was widely expected to submit a fresh complaint against Chinese solar manufacturers that could severely impact the average selling prices (ASPs) some firms are able to achieve in the US market. The complaint extends to all module importers, not just Chinese firms.

Suniva has asked the government for a minimum import price (MIP) of US$0.78/W on all imported modules.

The complaint, is not a revival or renewal of the longstanding anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases, however, it’s something different all-together. For want of a better phrase, it’s the nuclear option, and ultimately, President Trump has his finger on this red button too. 

The so-called Section 201 case has different procedures, thresholds and decision making processes.

Unlike in some jurisdictions for anti-dumping cases where the complaint must be shown to come from a body that is representative of a majority or at least large collective of that country’s domestic industry, a 201 complaint can come from one company typical of that industry, one trade body, a union or even a more informal group of workers. In addition, several House Committees, the US International Trade Commission (US ITC), the US Trade Representative or just President Trump himself can initiate an investigation.

Unlike an anti-dumping or anti-subsidy case, there is no evidence of unfair practices required, merely large volumes of imports that can be shown to be the major contributing factor to the detriment of the domestic industry.

The pace of the process is also greater, which could be viewed as a positive, however, given the complexity of previous solar trade cases, the 120-day turnaround seems insufficient.

Whereas the US Commerce Department uses a quantitative and evidence based approach to determine how it will act on affirmation that damage is being done by anti-dumping, an affirmation from the US ITC of a Section 201 complaint is sent to the President along with some suggested actions. Suddenly the whole process becomes heavily politicised. In this instance, a President elected on a promise to protect US manufacturing jobs, is handed a gilt-edged opportunity to be seen to be doing just that. Even if the more nebulous project management, engineering, design, maintenance and financial jobs related to solar deployment are jeopardised as a result.

According to the US ITC, the options available to President Trump should an affirmative decision be made include “a tariff increase, quantitative restrictions, or orderly marketing agreements”.

These sanctions are then reviewed periodically and amended, at the discretion of the President.

Read Next

July 29, 2021
Tracker and racking provider Arctech has delivered SkySmart II tracking system to a 575MW agriculture-sharing solar project located in Nangong City, Hebei Province, China.
July 23, 2021
China could install up to 65GW of solar this year, driven largely by a surge in demand for distributed solar installations, while average solar deployment could reach 90GW per year in the years leading up to 2025.
July 22, 2021
US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has failed in a bid to fast-track the US’ US$1.2 trillion infrastructure investment bill through the Senate. But there remains hope that further progress could be made as early as next Monday, when some Republican senators believe the bill will be fit to proceed.
July 16, 2021
Finlay Colville, head of market research at PV Tech Research, explores the critical themes behind the solar industry’s transition from p-type to n-type cell production before previewing PV CellTech Online 2021.
PV Tech Premium
July 15, 2021
Earlier this week the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published its 2021 Annual Technology Baseline (ATB) document, detailing the continued reduction in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of the country’s core generators. Liam Stoker takes a look at the data and discusses just how cheap solar, and solar-storage, could become.
July 15, 2021
Legislation that would ban the import of all products from China’s Xinjiang region into the US has taken a critical step forward, passing the US Senate.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021