The Biden-Harris administration is predicted to decide on Katherine Tai, at the moment chief commerce counsel on the Home Methods and Means Committee, as the subsequent U.S. Commerce Consultant. Politico was the primary to report the choice. 

USTR is historically not the flashiest of cabinet-level positions. However President Trump’s aggressive commerce insurance policies and “America First” mentality has elevated curiosity within the decide. The Trump administration’s Part 201 tariffs on imported photo voltaic cells and modules means the position can also be a spotlight for elements of the photo voltaic trade hoping to shift coverage underneath the brand new administration.

The Trump administration established 4 years of declining tariffs on imported photo voltaic in January of 2018. In October, the president issued a proclamation that might improve the tariffs of their final yr. President Trump additionally directed the U.S. Commerce Consultant to analyze whether or not the tariffs’ time period needs to be prolonged.

Within the years because the creation of the tariffs, photo voltaic firms have pursued litigation over an exclusion to bifacial photo voltaic that the administration supplied and later revoked. In November, a decide with the U.S. Worldwide Commerce Court docket dominated the administration may implement tariffs on bifacial photo voltaic, because of the October presidential proclamation.

It’s unclear how the Biden-Harris administration will strategy the controversy. In a December interview with the New York Occasions, the president-elect stated he wouldn’t make fast adjustments to tariffs. Biden is predicted to take a extra multilateral strategy to commerce than his predecessor. However he additionally informed the newspaper he would “pursue commerce insurance policies that truly produce progress on China’s abusive practices” resembling “stealing mental property” and “dumping merchandise.”

On Thursday, the Photo voltaic Power Industries Affiliation launched a marketing campaign in opposition to pressured labor and inspired photo voltaic firms to maneuver provide chains out of China’s Xinjiang province. The Biden marketing campaign has categorized human rights abuses and compelled labor within the area as “genocide.” 

The collection of Tai, who has labored at USTR as an affiliate basic counsel and as Chief Counsel for China Commerce Enforcement for the World Commerce Group, reiterates Biden’s “sturdy indicators that he intends to be robust on China,” stated Jeff Navin, a co-founder at consultancy Boundary Stone Companions who labored on the Division of Labor and the Division of Power throughout the Obama administration.

“[Tai] is aware of China, and he or she is aware of enforcement, and that’s going to be useful in ensuring that American producers and their staff are protected. She is not going to be afraid of any battle on dumping, and she’s going to know use each instrument within the USTR toolbox to push the Biden commerce agenda,” stated Navin.

“When it comes to photo voltaic, she’s going to vigorously implement the foundations which are on the books, and I wouldn’t assume she can be in any hurry to wipe away present guidelines like 201 with out placing one thing in place to guard manufacturing jobs.” 

The transition workforce didn’t reply to request for touch upon the decide or the way it would possibly impression photo voltaic tariffs.

U.S. photo voltaic trade cut up over tariffs

Part 201 photo voltaic tariffs have cut up the trade, with the biggest photo voltaic commerce group opposing them and home producers in assist.

Having an ally at USTR who “understands among the distinctive challenges the [solar] trade faces” is a vital precedence for SEIA heading into the brand new administration, president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper informed Greentech Media earlier this week. SEIA declined to remark particularly on Tai’s choice for the place.

Tai, who’s Asian American, can be the primary girl of shade to carry the place if confirmed. Her choice has received assist from each labor and enterprise teams.

As president, Biden has promised an formidable growth of renewables in addition to a lift for U.S. manufacturing. These objectives aren’t essentially at odds, however have typically been framed as such by present debates on photo voltaic tariffs. 

Whereas SEIA and renewables builders resembling Invenergy have argued that tariffs have hindered the expansion of the photo voltaic trade in the US, firms with home manufacturing services, resembling Hanwha Q Cells and First Photo voltaic, consider low-cost imports hurt the competitiveness of U.S.-made merchandise.

Because the Biden-Harris administration mulls commerce coverage, it should steadiness formidable clear vitality and local weather objectives with guarantees to buoy inexperienced, well-paying jobs within the U.S.

“They’re going to be weighing that,” stated Dave Glynn, an legal professional with Holland & Hart. “I wouldn’t rush out and assume the tariffs received’t go into play or that [bifacial] exclusion will come again.”

After the current choice within the U.S. Court docket of Worldwide Commerce, SEIA stated it might discover additional authorized motion relating to enforcement of the bifacial exclusion. As a result of authority over the exclusion now resides with Trump’s October presidential proclamation, the Biden administration may undo the coverage with one other proclamation.

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