The Biden administration confirmed Thursday it had banned U.S. imports of a key solar-panel material from Chinese-based Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., but stopped short of imposing a ban on all imports of silica from Xinjiang.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday added five Chinese entities to the U.S. economic blacklist over forced-labour allegations in Xinjiang, the White House said on Thursday, citing the G7′s recent pledge to clean up the global supply chain.
The Biden administration said the import ban would also cover products made overseas that use Hoshine materials, including any solar panels produced abroad with polysilicon from Hoshine.
“Our environmental goals will not be achieved on the backs of human beings in a forced-labour environment,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a media briefing. “We’re going to root out forced labour wherever it exists.”
The United States is restricting U.S. exports of “commodities, software, and technology” to Hoshine, three other Chinese firms and the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), saying they were involved with the forced labour of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Chinese province.
“These actions demonstrate our commitment to imposing additional costs on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for engaging in cruel and inhumane forced-labour practices and ensuring that Beijing plays by the rules of fair trade as part of the rules-based international order,” the White House said.
Beijing has dismissed accusations of genocide and forced labour in Xinjiang as lies.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, reacting to earlier reports of the U.S. action, said on Thursday that China would take “all necessary measures” to protect its companies’ rights and interests.
Hoshine Silicon Industry said on an interactive investor platform that it backed the Chinese foreign ministry’s reaction, adding that the firm does not export industrial silicon to the United States directly and the impact on its business would be limited.
According to a report on Thursday from the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, China accounts for nearly half the global production of polysilicon “from the massive amounts of energy used in the refining process and Xinjiang’s low, albeit carbon-intensive, energy costs,” not because of the availability of the raw material, noting that silicon is among the most abundant minerals on Earth.
The three other companies added to the U.S. economic blacklist were Xinjiang Daqo New Energy Co., a unit of Daqo New Energy Corp.; Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals Co., a subsidiary of Shanghai-based manufacturing giant East Hope Group; and Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Co., part of GCL New Energy Holdings Ltd.
Several of the companies are major manufacturers of monocrystalline silicon and polysilicon used in solar panel production.
The White House, in its statement, said the entities’ practices ran counter not only to American values but also tipped the scales against U.S. workers “by exploiting workers and artificially suppressing wages.” It noted the Biden administration’s push to boost the U.S. solar industry.
Xinjiang Daqo New Energy, in an e-mail to Reuters, said it had “zero tolerance” for forced labour and does not directly sell or buy from the United States so there would be no “significant impact” on its business.
The other companies or their parent firms, including XPCC, did not to requests for comment, or could not be reached.
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