Trade rep opens comment period for Section 301 tariff review

The Office of the United States Trade Representative said it will seek public comments as part of the statutory four-year review of tariff actions in the Section 301 investigation of China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation.

The Trade Representative’s office said it has received requests from domestic industries to continue the tariff action, which impacts imports of solar energy equipment. 

As part of its review, the trade body said it is opening an electronic portal, slated to launch in mid-November. The portal is expected to include questions to help it assess the tariff’s impact on U.S. workers, small businesses, manufacturing, supply chains, technological leadership, and possible “inversions” in which additional tariffs on goods are lower than additional tariffs on inputs used to produce those goods.  

The Trade Representative launched a probe in August 2017 into Chinese government actions related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.

Complaints at the time included foreign ownership restrictions, such as joint venture requirements and foreign equity limitations, as well as administrative review and licensing processes, to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies. The Trade Representative also looked at policies that support the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets by Chinese companies to obtain cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property and transfer technology to Chinese companies.

The Section 301 tariffs are one part of a decade-long effort to protect U.S. solar manufacturers from what some say is unfair competition by Chinese companies.

Starting in 2012, antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) were imposed on solar cells and modules from China. A second round of AD/CVD reached a broader range of Chinese and Taiwanese solar modules in 2015. An AD/CVD petition filed with Commerce Department earlier this year by Auxin Solar threatened to capsize the U.S. solar industry.

In a second layer, Section 201 safeguard tariffs were imposed starting in 2017 after the Trump administration determined that AD/CVD duties were not enough to save U.S. solar manufacturers. Those tariffs were extended last winter by President Joe Biden.

And, in 2019, the Trump administration imposed Section 301 tariffs (25%) on selected Chinese products, including solar cells and modules, as well as other components used to make solar modules such as tempered solar glass, backsheets, and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulants.

Last May, the U.S. trade body launched a required review process. In September, it said that based on requests it received to keep the tariffs in place, it would start a review process to gauge their effectiveness.

The comment period for the review extends from November 15 to Jan. 17, 2023. The Office of the United States Trade Representative was created in 1962 to negotiate directly with foreign governments to create trade agreements, resolve disputes, and participate in global trade policy organizations. 

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Author: Renewable Energy World

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