The Probe Into Solar Import Circumvention Hasn’t Been Stopped

By Matthew McMullan
May 17 2022 |
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Commerce’s investigation continues, with mandatory questionnaires being sent to leading solar manufacturers.

Last week we took a closer look at the freakout over a Commerce Department circumvention investigation into solar panel imports allegedly avoiding anti-dumping duties on goods made in China.

We learned the leading voice in this freakout, the trade association representing installers and importers, doth protest too much.

And we also noted that, in grim addition to the anti-dumping duties placed on heavily subsidized Chinese solar manufacturers, multiple reports say the Chinese solar supply chain draws on forced labor in that country’s Xinjiang province.

Unfortunately, the trade association and its allies in its Congress didn’t read our masterfully written and persuasive blog and are still calling for an immediate end to the Commerce probe. But they woke up this morning disappointed; Bloomberg reports investigators have sent mandatory questionnaires to a number of solar manufacturing giants to find out if they’re basically rerouting unfairly made panels through third-party countries to skirt U.S. trade enforcement.

So they haven’t squashed the investigation yet. Squash harder, boys!

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Yes, eat all of our shirts!

Is this the first time the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) has opposed lawful trade enforcement? The answer is no. It opposed the original implementation of these (again, well-earned) anti-dumping duties in 2014 and even provided informal legal advice to the Chinese solar manufacturers who were the defendants in the case, causing one American solar company to call for the resignation of its leadership.

From the New York Times back then:

The Solar Energy Industries Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Nice! Anyway: While many shortsighted lawmakers have lined up, in effect, to stump for an energy industry with potential slave labor in its supply chain, others are more skeptical. Over a year ago senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) pointed out in a letter to the SEIA that some of the companies now being probed have “publicly indicated that they source polysilicon,” a major component in solar panel manufacturing, from Xinjiang, where everything is going just fine. And in a March letter urging Commerce to take up the investigation, Ohio senators Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) reminded that “a strong commitment to American manufacturing must be paired with proper trade enforcement.”

They wrote:

Congress provided anti-circumvention authority to Commerce in 1988 to ensure that injured domestic industries obtained the full relief of the trade remedy laws and not just half loaf.

Suffice it to say, we think Commerce is doing the right thing by looking into this. If these imports are indeed circumventing (one more time: well-earned) anti-dumping duties, they should be made to pay them. You can tell your lawmakers as much by taking action below.

Tell Congress: Support America’s Solar Manufacturers and Workers!