|22 Jan 2018||Definitive duty|
|26 Apr 2017||Initiation|
ANNOUNCED AS TEMPORARYYes
On January 22, 2018, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump has approved recommendations to impose safeguard tariffs on imported solar cells and modules (as well as residential washing machines), based on the investigations, findings, and recommendations of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). The restrictions will be imposed for four years on a schedule that starts with 30% in Year 1, then declining to 25% in Year 2, 20% in Year 3, and 15% in Year 4.
The restrictions came into effect on February 7, 2018.
Together with the residential washing machines case, this is the first time that the United States has resorted to the global safeguard since invoking that "escape clause" in a 2001 steel case. The restrictions imposed then, like nearly all other uses of the safeguard by all countries since the World Trade Organization came into existence in 1995, was found in a WTO dispute-settlement panel to have violated the terms of the WTO Agreement on Safeguards. It is widely expected that this latest case will lead to a similar challenge. If that challenge is successful (as is widely expected), the United States will need to decide if it will comply with its WTO obligations by bringing these restrictions to an end. Taking into account the usual pace of such cases, this finding might reasonably be expected while the restrictions are in their second year.
This case began on April 26, 2017, when Suniva, Inc. filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) seeking safeguard protection from imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules. The USITC will now investigate in order to determine whether rising imports of these products are a substantial cause of serious injury to the industry. The commission generally must make its injury finding within 120 days (150 days in more complicated cases) of receipt of the petition, and must transmit its report to the president, together with any relief recommendations, within 180 days after receipt of the petition, request, resolution, or institution on its own motion. If it makes an affirmative determination, the USITC may recommend to the president that he impose tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions on these imports. The president will then have wide discretion to accept, reject, or modify those recommendations.
On September 22, 2017 the USITC determined that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported article. As a result of this decision, which was reached on a 4-0 vote, the commission proceeded to the remedy phase of the investigation.
On October 31, 2017 the USITC announced the remedy recommendations that it will forward to the president. The commissioners did not make a single, unified recommendation, but instead each offered their own variations on quantitative restrictions. Two of them joined in one recommendation, and two others had separate recommendations of their own. The commission will forward its report, which will contain its injury determination, remedy recommendations, certain additional findings, and the basis for them, to the president by November 13, 2017.
It is worth noting that this is the first global safeguards case in the United States since the Bush administration invoked the law for steel in 2001. The use of this law has been sharply circumscribed both in the United States and elsewhere in the years since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations in 1994, which produced a new Safeguards Agreement that — as interpreted by WTO panels — has made it all but impossible for countries to impose restrictions that can survive a legal challenge in the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.
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