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Exclusive: US Blocks Over 1,000 Solar Shipments Over Chinese Slavery Concerns

Exclusive: US Blocks Over 1,000 Solar Shipments Over Chinese Slavery Concerns
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Nov 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 solar energy components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been held up at U.S. ports since June under a new law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region over slave labor concerns, federal customs officials said. industrial sources.

The previously unreported level of seizures reflects the policy’s intent to pressure Beijing on its own. Uighur detention camps in Xinjiang That slows the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the U.S. energy sector to fight climate change.

US Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 shipments of solar energy equipment between June 21 and October 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act went into effect. None of the shipments have yet been released, it told Reuters on the 25th in response to a public records request.

The agency would not name the manufacturers or confirm details about the amount of solar equipment shipped, citing a federal law protecting confidential trade secrets.

However, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the stored products included 1 gigawatt panels and polysilicon cells, mainly from three Chinese manufacturers – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd. (601012.SS)Trina Solar Co Ltd (688599.SS) and JinkoSolar Holding Co (JKS.N)🇧🇷

Combined, Longi, Trina and Jinko typically account for one-third of US panel supply. But the companies have suspended new shipments to the U.S. because of the additional charges, industry sources said.

The sources asked not to be named because they are 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 it had set up “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang needed to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing on Friday that allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang were “the lie of the century by a small group of anti-China individuals” and would hinder the global response to climate change. .

“The U.S. side should immediately stop the unreasonable suppression of China’s photovoltaic enterprises and release the seized solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email, Jinko said it is working with CBP on documentation to prove its supplies are not related to forced labor and is “confident the shipments will be accepted.”

Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

A bottleneck is a problem US solar development at the same time, the Biden administration is trying to decarbonize the US economy and introduce the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a new law that promotes clean energy technologies to combat climate change.

U.S. solar installations slowed 23% in the third quarter, with about 23 gigawatts of solar projects delayed, largely due to lack of affordability, according to the American Clean Energy Association, a trade group.

ACP urged the Biden administration to streamline the inspection process for imports.

“After more than four months of solar panels being reviewed by the UFLPA, none have been rejected and instead they remain in limbo with no end in sight,” he said.

The UFLPA essentially assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and requires manufacturers to provide source documentation of imported equipment back to raw materials to prove otherwise before import clearance.

CBP would not comment on the duration of the arrests or say when they might be released or dismissed. “It ultimately depends on how quickly the importer can provide sufficient documentation,” said CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson.

Longi buys most of its Trina and Jinko polysilicon from U.S. 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, industry sources said.

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

“Our procurement strategy gives us every reason to make sure 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 buys all of its metallurgical-grade silicon from suppliers that use quartz mined in North and South America.

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

Although the EU also proposed to ban products from Xinjiang, it did not implement it.

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

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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