On December 6 (local time), the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) held a public hearing on photovoltaic cell and module import safeguards. The South Korean government attended the public hearing with South Korean companies and expressed their opposition to the import restrictions.
Two months ago, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) recommended the U.S. government to impose a tariff of 35% on solar cells imported from South Korea, China, etc. The public hearing was to gather the opinions of interested parties.
At the public hearing, the South Korean government said that the import restrictions are likely to result in an increase in the prices of the products, and then the public interests of the United States itself can be negatively affected. It also said that photovoltaic cells and modules exported from South Korea do not directly hinder the development of the industry of the United States.
Still, Suniva and Solarworld, which sued South Korean exporters like Hanwha Q CELLS, LG Electronics and Hyundai Green Energy, claimed that extensive import restrictions are necessary in the form of simultaneous quotas and tariffs. They also claimed that even roundabout measures are necessary such as restrictions via FTA partners. Last year, South Korea’s exports to the U.S. from its photovoltaic sector totaled US$1.3 billion, ranking third behind those of Malaysia and China.
Not only South Korea but also the EU, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Canada expressed their objection to the safeguards. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, and the American Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) expressed the same view.
The USTR is planning to make a detailed recommendation to U.S. President Donald Trump based on the result of the public hearing. Then, he makes a final decision on the issue in January next year in view of the advice of the USTR and the USITC.