US trade bodies slam ‘self-interested’ solar tariff investigation request

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SEIA plans to aggressively oppose the petition. Image: SEIA via Twitter.

Renewable energy trade associations have hit out at a new tariff investigation request from a US solar manufacturer, warning that the filings could derail efforts to tackle the climate crisis and slow economic growth.

California-based module manufacturer Auxin Solar earlier this week asked that the US Department of Commerce look into whether crystalline silicon PV (CSPV) cells and modules assembled in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are circumventing US anti-dumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) orders on cells and modules from China.

The Solar Energy Industries Association will “aggressively oppose” the petition, according to the trade body’s CEO, Abigail Ross Hopper, who said the investigation request “represents another attempt to abuse US trade laws and cause serious economic harm to the American solar industry and its 230,000 workers”.

She added: “This frivolous, self-interested petition could derail the entire American solar energy industry and disable efforts to tackle the climate crisis.”

Auxin’s probe request follows another last year from an anonymous group of solar companies that called for investigations into imports of modules and cells from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam that it claimed were circumventing AD/CVD orders. However, Commerce rejected the petition, citing the companies’ anonymity.

Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association (ACP), also criticised Auxin’s new filing, describing it as a distraction from the need to quickly deploy renewable energy at scale.

“Groundhog Day usually occurs once a year, but yesterday, a solar manufacturer filed another meritless anti-circumvention petition seeking a competitive advantage that hurts American jobs and endangers solar projects,” she said in a statement published yesterday.

“ACP strongly encourages the petitioning company to be part of the solution to meet our country’s climate and emission reduction targets rather than acting as an impediment to our clean energy future.”

The petition request was sent to Commerce just days after the Biden administration confirmed that the US will extend Section 201 tariffs on solar imports another four years, with bifacial panels continuing to be excempt. Auxin was among the companies that had pushed for a tariff extension.

In its filing, Auxin claims that cell and module assemblers in Southeast Asia use affiliated Chinese input suppliers and a fully integrated Chinese supply chain to circumvent the AD/CVD orders.

According to Mamun Rashid, CEO of Auxin Solar, the operations described in the company’s filing represent “textbook circumvention”. He said: “Instead of ending rampant government subsidisation of the solar supply chain and Chinese producers raising their prices to stop dumping, the Chinese simply moved to another country as an export platform to continue assaulting the US market with incredibly cheap products.”

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