New Dems Push Commerce to Speed Solar Tariff Investigation
WASHINGTON — Members of the New Democrat Coalition on Thursday urged the Commerce Department to step up the pace of its two-month-old investigation of solar technology imports.
The development of hundreds of large-scale solar farms are on hold across the United States as the industry and developers await the outcome of a federal investigation initiated in late March into potential trade violations involving solar panels brought from Asian suppliers.
In announcing its investigation, the Commerce Department said it is trying to determine whether Chinese manufacturers are skirting U.S. duties by assembling their panels in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam before sending them overseas.
Such a move would be a violation of anti-dumping rules.
The four countries at the heart of the investigation account for more than 80% of solar panel imports, according to the American Clean Power Association.
Although it initially stated that no additional duties would be imposed as a result of its investigation, the department has wide latitude to assess duties retroactive to the investigation’s start in March.
That could leave importers bearing much higher costs than they anticipated, and stymie the Biden administration’s own climate goals by disrupting the solar panel supply chain and the making of the critical modules.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of 21 senators sent a letter to the White House calling on the president to resolve the issue quickly.
On Thursday, New Democrat Coalition Chair Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., and Vice Chair for Policy Scott Peters, D-Calif., added their voices to the chorus through a joint statement.
“New Dems believe it is critical that the U.S. uphold the global rules-based trading system, enforce U.S. trade laws and coordinate with like-minded countries to counter unfair trade abuses,” they said.
“Unfortunately, the uncertainty surrounding this investigation has hindered the U.S. solar industry, leading to reports of delayed and canceled installations and extensions of fossil fuel plants that otherwise would have been retired. This uncertainty puts American jobs and the administration’s climate strategy at risk. We urge Commerce to act to prioritize resolving this investigation in full accordance with the law,” DelBene and Peters said.
At present, the Commerce Department is expected to deliver the preliminary results of its investigation (including a preliminary duty rate) in August 2022. It plans to reach a final decision by Jan. 26, 2023, with a possible extension to April 1, 2023.
In addition to DelBene and Peters, the statement was signed by New Dem Coalition members Sharice Davids of Kansas, Kathy Manning of North Carolina, Sean Casten of Illinois, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Deborah Ross of North Carolina, Charlie Crist of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado, A. Donald McEachin of Virginia, Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, Don Beyer of Virginia, Gregory Meeks of New York, Rick Larsen of Washington, and Jimmy Panetta of California.
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