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First Solar rallies behind Suniva, SolarWorld trade case stance

First Solar Inc. has rallied behind Suniva Inc.'s and SolarWorld Americas Inc.'s petition to impose tariffs and price controls on crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar cells and panels, or CSPVs.

"For years, [crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar cells and panel, or CSPV] import prices have been anything but rational, falling much more rapidly than could be explained by cost improvements achieved on a commercial basis," First Solar CEO Mark Widmar wrote in an Oct. 10 letter addressed to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Widmar said foreign CSPV producers, particularly in Asia, sustained their overproduction of panels despite yielding low to zero profit because they are not hindered by the market and capital constraints in the U.S.

In a Sept. 22 ruling, ITC unanimously determined that rising imports have seriously injured domestic solar cell and panel makers. The commission has until Nov. 13 to recommend remedies to President Donald Trump, who will have sole discretion over the type of safeguards that are ultimately applied.

Widmar asserted that a remedy imposing price controls on foreign solar panels will not impede the growth in U.S. solar demand and downstream businesses. "[M]y overarching point is that [ITC] should reject the notion that the U.S. CSPV industry must be left to die so that the downstream solar industry may live," he said.

Arizona-based First Solar could benefit from the tariff because it manufactures cadmium telluride solar panels that are not impacted by the tariffs. It halted its production of CSPV cells and modules in 2016.