US Kickstarts Campaign To Slap ‘Safeguard’ Tariffs On Chinese Solar Panels

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The U.S. filed a petition Monday that could allow the Trump administration to enact tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels from China.

U.S. officials notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of an investigation into whether increased imports damaged cash-strapped solar company, Suniva. Government officials may take safeguard actions, such as adding import taxes, if the probe uncovers any substance, according to a filing from the WTO.

Suniva was founded in Georgia but sold to Japan-based International Clean Energy in 2015. The company filed a rare Section 201 petition with the International Trade Commission (ITC) about a week after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Matt Card, Suniva’s executive vice president of Commercial Operations, claimed earlier this month that the solar industry would “die” without protections against Chinese manufacturers.

He believes competition from Chinese-made solar panels all but forced the company into bankruptcy, despite receiving more than $20 million in support from federal and state taxpayers, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The company received $8.8 million from the federal government between 2010 and 2016, as well as $11 million in state incentives so they could manufacture more solar cells. Suniva also got $5.7 million in federal tax credits in 2010 as part of former President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Suniva’s petition on Monday also alleged that more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost and 27 percent of wages have been cuts since 2012.

Industry analysts worry the petition could drive up the price of U.S. solar systems, placing more stress on companies like SolarCity among others.

“The relief sought would be damaging to the whole solar industry,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), told reporters Tuesday about Suniva’s request. “There is no job worth saving that is worth putting the other 250,000 at risk.”

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