Canadian Solar Companies Fight Trump Over New Tariffs

(CN) – Facing a new 30 percent import tariff on their solar products, three Canadian manufacturers claim in a federal complaint that President Donald Trump acted rashly without input from trade officials.

Represented by the Washington firm Hogal Lovells, the companies Canadian Solar Solutions, Heliene Inc., and Silfab Solar brought their action on Feb. 7 in the Manhattan-based U.S. Court of International Trade.

That same day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began collecting a new tariff-rate quote approved on Jan. 23 by Trump on CSPV cells and modules. Short for crystalline silicon photovoltaic, CSPV cells convert energy from the sun into electricity.

Silfab and the other companies note that they have no part in the manufacturing of CSPV cells, producing only the modules that incorporate CSPV cells for use ultimately in solar panels and other products.

Solar power has been surging in the United States, and the U.S. International Trade Commission conducted an extensive investigation last year into whether the U.S. solar industry had been harmed by the influx of imported CSPV cells.

Silfab concedes that multinational corporations with overseas manufacturing facilities are producing most of the CSPV products used in the United States, but it says America’s new import tariffs on all foreign-made CSPV products fail to take into account the very small role that Canadian companies play in this market.

“Approximately 67% of CSPV cells and modules are produced in just three countries: Malaysia, South Korea, and Vietnam,” the complaint states. “The United States and Canada, in contrast, produce only a small fraction of the CSPV products consumed in the United States. The United States manufacturers fewer than 5% of CSPV cells and modules used in the United States, and Canada manufactures only 2%.”

Silfab, Heliene and Canadian Solar Solutions note that they are Canada’s only manufacturers of CSPV modules, and that America’s new tariffs will cause them immediate, severe and irreparable harm.

While the commission found that global imports of CSPV products were seriously injuring U.S.-based CSPV manufacturers, the complaint emphasizes the commission’s other conclusion: “that CSPV cells and modules imported from Canada do not account for a ‘substantial share’ of total CSPV imports, and do not ‘contribute importantly to the serious injury’ found by the commission.”

“Furthermore, the commission failed to recommend to the president any action to remedy the serious injury it had identified,” it continues.

Silfab says Trump’s move to impose tariffs via proclamation on Jan. 23 before the commission provided a recommendation violates the Trade Act of 1974.

It also says the North American Free Trade Agreement bars Trump from taking safeguard actions, in this case the tariff, against a NAFTA country.

America’s new solar-import tariffs will drop from 30 percent to 25 percent in Year 2, then to 20 percent in Year 3, and 15 percent in Year 4 — then expire.

Silfab and the other companies are represented by Hogal Lovells attorney Jonathan Stoel.

Representatives for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. International Trade Commission declined to comment on pending litigation.

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