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Import Restrictions on Solar Cells Could Result from New Safeguard Probe

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The International Trade Commission has instituted a global safeguard investigation that could result in up to eight years of higher tariffs and minimum prices on imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. In this investigation, which will be conducted under section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, the ITC will determine whether such goods are being imported in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause or threat of serious injury to a U.S. industry.

The articles covered by this investigation are CSPV cells, whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products, including modules, laminates, panels, and building-integrated materials. The investigation covers CSPV cells of a thickness equal to or greater than 20 micrometers, having a p/n junction (or variant thereof) formed by any means, whether or not the cell has undergone other processing, including cleaning, etching, coating, and/or addition of materials (e.g., metallization and conductor patterns) to collect and forward the electricity generated by the cell.  Included in this investigation are photovoltaic cells that contain crystalline silicon in addition to other photovoltaic materials; e.g., passivated emitter rear contact cells, heterojunction with intrinsic thin-layer cells, and other so-called hybrid cells.

Excluded from the investigation are (1) CSPV cells, whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products, that are manufactured in the U.S.; (2) thin film photovoltaic products produced from amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, or copper indium gallium selenide; and (3) CSPV cells, not exceeding 10,000 mm2 in surface area, that are permanently integrated into a consumer good whose function is other than power generation and that consumes the electricity generated by the integrated cell.

The ITC initiated this investigation May 17, the date on which it deemed the safeguard petition to have been properly filed after the petitioner provided a revised description of the imported articles and made other amendments. Hearings will be held Aug. 15 on the issue of injury and, if the ITC’s injury determination is affirmative, Oct. 3 on the question of remedy. Requests to appear at these hearings, as well as pre-hearing briefs, are due by Aug. 9 and Sept. 27, respectively. Post-hearing briefs are due by Aug. 22 and Oct. 10, respectively.

The ITC has determined that this investigation is extraordinarily complicated based on the complexity of the issues, including the existence of antidumping and countervailing duty orders on certain covered goods and the global supply chains for covered goods. As a result, the ITC has postponed its injury determination from Sept. 14 to Sept. 22. The ITC intends to submit its report to the president no later than Nov. 13.

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