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Proposed aluminum import duties could further impact solar manufacturing

A new set of antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) could affect more segments of solar manufacturing later this month. The Dept. of Commerce is considering imposing AD/CVD tariffs on aluminum extrusions imported from 15 countries, including China, Mexico, Turkey, India, Italy and South Korea.

Organizations that petitioned for the AD/CVD investigation on aluminum are the U.S. Aluminum Extrusions Coalition and the “United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union,” a coalition of 14 aluminum extruders. AD/CVD are imposed on goods that are imported below domestic market value or production cost, essentially low-balling U.S. manufacturers and causing financial harm to companies operating within a respective industry.

In solar manufacturing, aluminum is used in many structural mounts and racks as well as solar module frames. The United States once produced most of the world’s aluminum, but domestic manufacturing in recent decades has relied on aluminum imports. Law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Field filed a response to the AD/CVD investigation on behalf of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), citing concerns that the investigations alone could negatively affect related manufacturing.

“If these products could be procured domestically, there are incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act for doing so, but it is our understanding that these products are not available from domestic producers. As such, imposing duties on these products would be unnecessary and harmful to clean energy production in the United States. This would run counter to the goals of the Inflation Reduction Act championed by the Biden Administration, which has encouraged unprecedented investment in expansion of solar power throughout the United States. By potentially subjecting products critical to solar infrastructure to duties, these investigations serve as a barrier to achieving these important goals,” the filing states.

In the filing, SEIA also inquired whether “finished solar panels” with aluminum frames will fall under this proposed import duty. AD/CVDs have already been imposed on Chinese-made solar panels since 2012, and Commerce recently extended those duties toward solar cells and panels being made in Southeast Asia (specifically Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam).

According to a press release published by the U.S. International Trade Commission, Commerce is expected to release initial findings from its countervailing investigation around Dec. 28 and findings from its antidumping duty investigation around March 12, 2024. The ITC is publishing a report on these investigations on Dec. 26.

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