Exclusive: US blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments due to Chinese slave labor issues

Exclusive: US blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments due to Chinese slave labor issues

November 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 shipments of solar power components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have piled up at U.S. ports since June under a new law banning imports from the China’s Xinjiang region due to slave labor concerns, according to federal customs officials and industry sources.

The level of seizures, which has not previously been reported, shows how a policy aimed at pressuring Beijing over its Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang risks slowing the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the sector. American electricity company in order to fight against climate change.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 shipments of solar power equipment between June 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Law went into effect, and October 25, it said. he told Reuters in response to a request for public records, adding that none of the shipments have yet been released.

The agency did not reveal manufacturers or confirm details of the amount of solar equipment in the shipments, citing federal law that protects confidential trade secrets.

However, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the products being held include polysilicon panels and cells with a capacity of up to 1 gigawatt and mainly made by three Chinese manufacturers – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd (601012.SS ), Trina Solar Co Ltd (688599.SS) and JinkoSolar Holding Co (JKS.N).

Together, Longi, Trina and Jinko typically account for up to one-third of US panel supplies. But companies have halted new shipments to the United States, fearing additional shipments may also be held up, industry sources said.

The 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 detention camps, but later admitted to setting up ‘vocational training centers’ needed to fight what it said was terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang. .

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press conference on Friday that the allegations of the use of forced labor in Xinjiang were “the lie of the century fabricated by a small group of individuals anti-Chinese” and would hamper the global response to climate change. .

“The US side should immediately stop the unreasonable suppression of Chinese PV companies and release the seized solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email, Jinko said he was working with CBP on documentation proving his supplies are not related to forced labor and is “confident the shipments will be admitted.”

Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

The bottleneck is a challenge for U.S. solar development at a time when the Biden administration seeks to decarbonize the U.S. economy and implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a new law that encourages solar technologies. clean energy to fight climate change.

U.S. solar installations slowed 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects are delayed, largely due to an inability to obtain panels, according to the American Clean Power Association trade group. .

ACP urged the Biden administration to streamline the import verification process.

“After more than four months of reviewing the solar panels under the UFLPA, none have been rejected and instead they remain stuck in limbo with no end in sight,” he said. in a press release.

The UFLPA essentially assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and requires producers to show sourcing documentation from imported equipment to raw material to prove otherwise before imports can clear customs. .

CBP would not comment on the length of the detentions or say when they might be released or discharged. “Ultimately it comes down to how quickly an importer is able to submit sufficient documentation,” CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson said.

Longi, Trina and Jinko source 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, the sources said. industry.

A spokesperson for Wacker would not comment on the US detentions, but said the company sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

“Our sourcing strategy gives us every reason to be confident that the products used in our supply chain are made with respect for human rights,” said spokesman Christof Bachmair.

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

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

The EU also proposed a ban on Xinjiang products but did not implement one.

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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