Unlike previous trade actions which targeted solar imports from China, later Taiwan, the truly global nature of the Section 201 tariffs ensured there weren’t many places to relocate a factory get around tariffs on modules shipped to the United States.
There weren’t many; but there were some. The Section 201 tariffs carry exemptions for several dozen developing nations that are part of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) list, as long as imports from such nations do not exceed 3% of the total volume imported during any year, or 9% of aggregated import levels.
While Thail the Philippines were not exempted, as they had already supplied more than 3% of PV imports, one nation that was on the list was promising for east Asian manufacturers: Turkey.
Over the last few years, Turkey has become a minor PV manufacturing destination, with local producers including Ankara Solar CW Enerji joining China Sunergy, with Chinese PV maker HT-SAAE commissioning a 600 MW cell module fab in 2017 planning an 850 MW mega-factory.
At the time of writing it was not clear how much of the nation’s cells modules were making their way to the U.S. market but as of last week that no longer mattered, as Turkey was formally removed from the GSP on May 17.
Contractors working in the U.S. solar market wishing to source modules overseas not pay tariffs will now be competing for the limited supply available from Algeria, Brazil, India Tunisia.
The price of economic success
Although the removal of Turkey from the GSP will hit PV module importers, that was not necessarily the aim of the Trump administration.
The GSP is intended for developing nations, Turkey’s removal from the list – which was established in 1974 – is intended to recognize it has developed sufficiently that it should no longer receive preferential treatment, even though Turkey still has a per-capita GDP of less than $10,000. The World Bank has described the nation’s economic social development in the past two decades as “impressive”, with the incidence of poverty more than halving between 2002 2015.
As such, the lender now describes Turkey as an “upper-middle-income country”, it is likely to be this economic success that determined the recent change.
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