Trump Thwarted in Latest Bid to Kill Solar-Tariff Loophole

A U.S. trade court temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s latest bid to end a loophole it had granted on two-sided solar panels.

The order Saturday came weeks after President Donald Trump moved to eliminate a tariff exemption for so-called bifacial, panels. Prior to that proclamation, the government tried for more than a year to revoke the exemption, only to get repeatedly thwarted by the trade court.

Court of International Trade Judge Gary Katzmann issued a temporary restraining order that effectively prevents the tariff exemption from being removed for two weeks, unless the court takes other action during that time. A spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative didn’t respond to an email seeking comment about the order.

China-based manufacturer JinkoSolar Holding Co. gained 0.8% to $64.87 at 12:28 p.m. in New York.

In early 2018, Trump approved four years of tariffs on solar panel imports, starting at 30% and to be reduced by 5 percentage points in each subsequent year. The tariffs were part of a campaign promise to get tough on China, which dominates solar-panel manufacturing, and to boost the U.S. industry.

But his administration surprised many in the sector when it granted an exclusion for bifacial panels in 2019. While bifacial was considered a niche product, the tariffs had encouraged some new solar manufacturing in the U.S., and module imports exempt from those duties posed a threat.

In the October proclamation, Trump said it was necessary to revoke the bifacial exemption because the loophole has “impaired and is likely to continue to impair the effectiveness” of the tariffs intended to bolster U.S. solar manufacturing.

That’s why he also said it was necessary to set tariffs on most imported solar cells and modules at 18% starting in February, instead of reducing them to 15% from 20% as originally planned.

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