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U.S. settles solar tariff dispute with Canada

The Trump administration implemented the solar safeguard measure in 2018 to support domestic solar manufacturing. While largely aimed at China, the safeguard extended to all solar imports.
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The U.S. will lift tariffs on solar products imported from Canada, the countries announced.

As part of the agreement signed on July 8, the U.S. and Canada also committed to prohibiting imports of solar products produce with forced labor.

Subscribe today to the all-new Factor This! podcast from Renewable Energy World. This podcast is designed specifically for the solar industry and is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Listen to the latest episode, on the restart of California's net energy metering reform proceeding  —  and rooftop solar's biggest fight yet  —  with Vote Solar's new executive director, Sachu Constantine.

The Trump administration implemented the solar safeguard measure in 2018 to support domestic solar manufacturing. While largely aimed at China, the safeguard extended to all solar imports.

In February, a panel found that Canada's inclusion in the solar safeguard was inconsistent with rules within the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

That same month, President Biden extended the solar safeguard measure for an additional four years, but excluded bifacial cells and doubled the import quota on solar cells to 5 GW. Biden also directed the United States trade representative to conclude agreements with Canada and Mexico on trade in solar products.

“Reaching this settlement with Canada will promote greater deployment of solar energy in the United States using products from one of our closest allies, and foster a more resilient North American supply chain for clean energy products made without forced labor," United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

September 14, 2021 - Joe Biden, President of the United States, speaks during a visit the Flatirons Campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colorado. The President received insight into NREL’s long-term research mission, vision, and critical objectives which directly align with his decarbonization goals and national energy priorities.(Photo by Werner Slocum / NREL).
Solar tariff timeline

2012: Obama administration implements anti-dumping and countervailing duty rules based on Chinese solar manufacturers, linking the AD/CVD to the origin of the cells, not the module. Cells were offshored out of China, primarily to Thailand, while modules were still produced in China with components subsidized by the Chinese government.

2015: Obama administration adds follow-up AD/CVD against China and AD against Taiwan to address the cell/module workaround. AD/CVD is attached to the solar module's origin, regardless of where the cell is produced.

2018: Trump administration establishes Section 201 safeguard and quota. Tariff rate is implemented on all solar module imports, regardless of origin, with a duty-free importation of 2.5 GW of cells for domestic module manufacturing.

2022: Biden administration extends Trump-era Section 201 safeguards for another four years, but expands the cell import quota to 5 GW and exempts bifacial solar modules.

In May 2017, a group of U.S. solar panel manufacturers filed what is known as a Section 201 safeguard petition with the International Trade Commission (ITC). The petition sought global tariffs in response to what it claimed were unfair trade practices, particularly by China. The ITC unanimously found that the imports had injured U.S. solar panel producers. In January 2018, President Trump concurred with the ITC recommendation to impose a four-year “safeguard measure” on foreign solar panels. The tariffs began at 30% but declined over time to 15%.

Last fall, the ITC again unanimously recommended that the tariffs be extended for another four years.

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