Exclusive: US blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments over China’s slave labor concerns

Exclusive: US blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments over China's slave labor concerns
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Nov 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 shipments of solar components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have piled up at US ports since June under a new law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region, according to federal customs officials and federal customs officials. industry resources.

The level of previously unreported seizures reflects how a policy aims to put pressure on Beijing. Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang There is a risk that the Biden administration will slow down efforts to decarbonize the US energy sector to combat climate change.

US Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 shipments of solar equipment between June 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act went into effect, and October. On February 25, he told Reuters in response to a public registration request that none of the posts had yet been released.

The agency will not disclose manufacturers or confirm details about the amount of solar equipment in shipments, citing federal law protecting classified trade secrets.

However, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the detained products likely included panels and polysilicon cells with capacities of up to 1 gigawatt and were primarily made by three Chinese manufacturers – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd. (601012.SS)Trina Solar Co Ltd (688599.SS) and JinkoSolar Holding A.S. (JKS.N).

Combined, Longi, Trina, and Jinko typically account for up to a third of U.S. panel materials. However, industry sources said companies are halting new shipments to the US over concerns that additional cargo will also be retained.

Sources asked not to be named as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of any detention camps, but later admitted that it had set up the necessary “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang to curb what it said was terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular news briefing on Friday that allegations of the use of forced labor in Xinjiang are “the lie of the century fabricated by a small anti-Chinese group” and will hamper the global response to climate change. .

“The US side should immediately stop the unreasonable suppression of China’s photovoltaic businesses and release the seized solar panel components as quickly as possible,” he said.

In an email, Jinko said he was working with CBP on documents proving that his materials were not linked to forced labor and that he was “confident that the shipments would be accepted”.

Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

The bottleneck is a challenge US solar development The Biden administration is seeking to decarbonize the US economy and implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a new law that promotes clean energy technologies to combat climate change.

According to the American Clean Power Association trade group, solar installations in the United States slowed by 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects were delayed, largely due to panel shortages.

The ACP urged the Biden administration to streamline the review process for imports.

“None of the solar panels that had been inspected for more than four months under the UFLPA were rejected and instead remained in limbo with no apparent end,” the statement said.

The UFLPA essentially assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and require manufacturers to return source documents of imported equipment to the raw material to prove otherwise so that imports can be cleared from customs.

CBP did not comment on the length of the detentions or say when they might be released or denied. “Ultimately, it depends on how quickly an importer can present sufficient documentation,” said CBP spokesperson Rhonda Lawson. Said.

Longi, Trina and Jinko source most of their polysilicon from US and European suppliers such as Hemlock Semiconductor, a Michigan-based joint venture between Corning Inc and Shin-Etsu Handotai Co Ltd and Germany’s Wacker Chemie.

A Wacker spokesperson did not comment on the arrests in the US, but said the company sources its quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

“Our sourcing strategy gives us every reason to make sure that the products used in our supply chain are made in a way that respects human rights,” spokesperson Christof Bachmair said. said.

Hemlock said in a statement that it sources all metallurgical-grade silicon from suppliers that use quartz mining in North and South America.

CBP previously said it had withheld about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under the UFLPA until September, but never detailed how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

The EU has also proposed a ban on products from Xinjiang, but has not implemented one.

Reporting from Nichola Groom; additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing Richard Valdmanis, Lisa Shumaker, Lincoln Feast and David Evans

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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