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Solar industry urges Commerce to reject Auxin Solar tariff case as deadline looms

Commerce must issue a preliminary ruling in the Auxin Solar tariff case by Dec. 1. The investigation brought the industry to its knees earlier this year.
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The U.S. solar industry is urging the Department of Commerce to squash a tariff case ahead of a crucial deadline.

Commerce must issue a preliminary determination in the Auxin Solar tariff case by Dec. 1.

Auxin, a small, California-based solar module manufacturer, has alleged that modules imported from Southeast Asia are illegally skirting U.S. trade duties against China.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on behalf of more than 240 solar and storage companies on Nov. 16, urging her to issue a negative determination.

SEIA says "ample evidence" confirms that "solar cell and module manufacturing involves technologically sophisticated operations which greatly exceed the anticircumvention statute’s 'minor or insignificant processing' limitation."

Auxin alleged that solar cells and modules assembled in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia are circumventing and undermining the effectiveness of U.S. trade remedy laws.

The trade group warned that an affirmative determination in the Auxin Solar investigation could hurt the solar industry and American jobs, while undercutting historic investments in clean energy that were included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Factor This! podcast broke down all angles of the Auxin Solar tariff petition in a four-part series, which included an exclusive interview with Auxin Solar CEO Mamun Rashid. Subscribe today wherever you get your podcasts.

In August, Commerce granted an Auxin request to delay their preliminary determination. Auxin Solar CEO Mamun Rashid told Renewable Energy World at the time that the request was made because respondents to the investigation "obstructed the process by seeking lengthy extension of time to submit necessary data to Commerce."

News of Commerce's investigation earlier this year brought the solar industry to a standstill over fears of retroactive tariffs.

In June, President Joe Biden granted some relief by pausing any new tariffs on modules imported from Southeast Asia for two years. The reprieve came after a $5 million pressure campaign by the industry for the president to step in.

And while billions of dollars is flowing into American solar manufacturing since the president's interjection, and passage of incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, the industry still faces significant supply chain headwinds.

More than 1,000 shipments of solar energy components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents since June, according to federal customs officials and industry sources based on reporting from the Reuters news agency.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seized 1,053 shipments of solar energy equipment between June 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA) went into effect, and Oct. 25, it told Reuters in response to a public records request. None of the shipments have yet been released.

Courtesy: Martin Magnemyr/Unsplash

The agency did not reveal the manufacturers or confirm details about the quantity of solar equipment in the shipments, citing federal law that protects confidential trade secrets.

The news agency cited other sources who said the detained products include panels and polysilicon cells likely amounting to up to 1 GW of capacity and primarily made by three Chinese manufacturers: Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd., Trina Solar Co Ltd., and JinkoSolar Holding Co.

The three typically account for up to a third of U.S. panel supplies. The companies reportedly have halted new shipments to the United States over concerns additional cargoes will be detained.

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