U.S. Commerce secretary says she can’t influence solar tariff probe

Source: By Nichola Groom, Reuters • Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo testifies in Washington

May 11 (Reuters) – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Wednesday said she had no discretion to influence her department’s investigation into tariff-dodging by Chinese solar panel producers but said the industry’s worst fears were unlikely to materialize.

The comments came as the U.S. solar industry has warned of a major slowdown in installations this year due to the threat of tariffs on panel imports from four Southeast Asian nations. Commerce opened a trade probe into those products in March at the request of a small domestic panel producer, Auxin Solar.

Clean energy trade groups have urged Raimondo to dismiss the request.

“I personally am not, I don’t have discretion or ability to weigh in on their fact-finding process,” Raimondo said at a Senate appropriations hearing.

The trade action is being considered by department officials under a strict process that considers very specific criteria prescribed by law, Raimondo said.

She added, however, that the department was unlikely to impose tariffs of 200% as many in the solar development industry have worried could happen.

“It is true Commerce would be permitted to impose a tariff at that excessive level,” she said. “That is exceedingly unlikely.”

Raimondo committed to moving “as fast as possible” to complete the probe, which could last until August.

“If we can do better than August, we certainly will,” she said.

Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese, Sandra Maler and Andrea Ricci

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