The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) filed a letter with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), highlighting the fact that the petitioners in the high-profile Section 201 trade case on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells and modules failed to develop and submit a plan to function as viable solar cell and panel manufacturers if granted trade relief.
This raises questions as to whether the petitioners, Suniva and SolarWorld, plan to resume or restart operations even with help from the federal government. Further, it supports SEIA’s position that the real reason these foreign-based companies filed the Section 201 petition is to get a federal bailout to pay back their creditors for bad investments. The failure to provide a plan also runs contrary to the intent of the authors of the Congressional language, which called on industry to provide a plan for survival.
“As the Commissioners prepare to cast their votes on the question of injury later this week, there is good cause for the Commission to accept this letter because of the failure of petitioners to submit an adjustment plan after repeated commitments to do so,” the SEIA letter says. This “evidences both a lack of respect for the process contemplated by the statute and an apparent inability to devise a genuine plan for the industry’s adjustment to import competition.”
Under the law, the petitioners can get trade relief for up to four years under a Section 201 action. An adjustment plan would lay out concrete steps to achieve competitiveness through the 201 process so that, after those four years, they can compete without trade relief.
“If imports are the problem, SolarWorld and Suniva should be able to explain how they will get their houses in order with trade relief in place and they couldn’t do that,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “This reinforces what the rest of the industry has been saying all along, that imports are not the core problem for these companies; mismanagement and poor quality and customer service are to blame.”
According to language in the 1988 Trade and Competitive Act conference report, “[t]he conferees believe that it is important for firms and workers in the petitioning industry to demonstrate to the ITC and the President what steps they will be taking to make a positive adjustment to import competition.”
“To our knowledge, no domestic industry has ever been granted import relief under the safeguard law without first having publicly explained how it would restructure,” Hopper said.
The letter goes on to argue that the case should not be sent to the President, given that petitioners have not provided a plan for their own survival. Doing so would be asking President Trump to provide these companies trade relief that will dramatically reduce solar installations and cost thousands of jobs – with no assurances that doing so will help resolve the petitioners’ fundamental problems.