Washington has banned the import of some solar energy products manufactured using forced labor in Xinjiang, where it accuses the Chinese government of committing a genocide against the Uyghurs.
The Biden administration has banned imports of solar energy products produced by Xinjiang Hoshine Silicon Industry, according to people familiar with the ban.
The people also added five other companies that make polysilicon – a raw material used by the solar energy industry – to the Commerce Department’s “Entity List”, which requires US companies to obtain a license from the government before doing business with them.
The ban is the latest attempt by the Biden administration to pressure the Chinese government over the detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the country’s northwest region. Xinjiang.
Earlier this year, the United States worked with the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang.
John Kerry, the US international climate negotiator, told Congress last month that the United States was considering more sanctions, but did not say whether that would include a ban on solar energy imports or new measures against officials in Beijing.
Last year, the Trump administration imposed a similar ban on the import of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang. Companies from apparel retailers to solar panel manufacturers are under increasing pressure to ensure they do not employ forced labor in their supply chains.
Congress is also considering legislation that would require companies to provide assurances that their supply chains do not rely on forced labor in Xinjiang.
Chinese officials and researchers have described the allegations of forced labor as a ploy by the United States to undermine the international competitiveness of the country’s solar energy industry.
The State Department recently dismissed those who make accusations of forced labor in the solar energy supply chain as “black hands” with an anti-China agenda. “Their goal is to cook lies about forced labor in order to force them to lose the job and separate them from Xinjiang,” she said.
An article published last month by the Beijing-based China Going Global Think Tank argued that the United States was trying to “suppress China’s PV industry and promote the development of the domestic industry, as well as effectively win a leading position in the world.”
Speaking to the Financial Times before the solar ban was finalized, John Smirnau, senior executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said his group had been “ringing alarm bells since last year” out of concern that Washington would crack down on imports.
Smirnov said US solar companies had been “significantly” exposed to Xinjiang until last year, but those companies had significantly reduced the proportion of these products in their supply chains.
He said the companies realized that it would be very difficult to persuade customs to allow any imports of solar energy from Xinjiang.
“Currently, given the inability to conduct an independent third-party audit in Xinjiang of forced labor, it would be nearly impossible to convince customs if you had a painting or product from that region.”