Energy Trade

Court Blocks Trump Tariffs on Solar Panels

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Good news -- the federal Court of International Trade in New York has blocked the Trump regime from reimposing tariffs on double-sided or "bifacial" solar panels that are capable of producing more energy.

Trump's tariffs on most solar panels remain on the books, but the U.S. Trade Representative removed tariffs on bifacial panels earlier this year before reimposing the tariffs in October.

The decision to remove tariffs for no reason and then reimpose the tariffs for no reason caught the court's attention and compelled Judge Gary Katzmann to block them until Trump's trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, can offer a sufficient explanation.

The United States in January 2018 imposed duties on solar panel imports beginning at 30% and expected to drop to 15% by 2021.

It exempted bifacial panels on June 12 but yanked the exemption on Oct. 4, projecting "significant" increases in imports. Invenergy sued on Oct. 22. [...]

In his 55-page decision, Katzmann said tariff opponents would likely show it was "arbitrary and capricious" to withdraw the exemption.

"The facts on which USTR relied to implement the withdrawal remain unknown to all but USTR," Katzmann wrote. "The public interest is served by ensuring that governmental bodies comply with the law."

Complainants pointed out in court that no one in the United States manufactures bifacial solar panels so a tariff on them was not benefiting domestic producers and only harming consumers.

It strikes me that if you applied this standard to all of Trump's tariffs, a great deal of them would be struck down. We're taxing hundreds of imports from China and other countries that no one in the United States produces. And the Trump regime is doing all of this in the name of "national security."

This is the second time in the last two weeks that the Court of International Trade has blocked some of Trump's tariffs and I think we can expect to see much more of the same in the coming months. The Trump White House has played fast and loose with executive authority over trade and legal challenges simply haven't caught up to them until now.

I believe a significant portion of Trump's trade war has been waged illegally or, at the very least, stretched executive authority so thinly there are gaping legal holes in it.

  • muselet

    “The facts on which USTR relied to implement the withdrawal remain unknown to all but USTR,” Katzmann wrote. “The public interest is served by ensuring that governmental bodies comply with the law.”

    I believe that is what is known as a smackdown.

    I look forward to seeing what gibberish Robert Lighthizer produces to justify imposing, then removing, then reimposing tariffs on bifacial solar panels. My best guess is that it will boil down to, “If the president does it, that means that it is not arbitrary and capricious.”

    Good on the Court of International Trade for bringing a little welcome sanity to the issue.

    –alopecia