The following is an open letter written by Lu Jinbiao, the Deputy Director of Expert Committee of the Silicon Industry of China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association on February 7, 2021
On February 4, Bloomberg revealed that at least two top Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers have signed the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA)’s “Solar Industry Forced Labor Prevention Pledge”, promising to eliminate “forced labor” along the solar supply chain.
On the same day, the SEIA announced on its official website that the number of companies with joint commitments had reached 175. At least 5 Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers have signed, of which 4 were the global leading producers of photovoltaic modules in 2020.
On the 8th of last month, when the SEIA first announced the formation of the alliance, the 115 companies that had signed the pledge were mainly companies in the United States. The 175 participating companies that have signed now are primarily comprised of photovoltaic power plant developers in the United States and a small number of module suppliers.
The SEIA has stated that the pledge will remain open for signing for the next few months.
Through the establishment of the “Solar Industry Forced Labor Prevention Pledge”, the United States has successfully targeted China’s photovoltaic industry.
After SEIA initiated the pledge, some Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers rushed to stand in line to dispel “forced labor”, and caused the US to misunderstand it as Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers and the Chinese government having different principled positions on the subject.
Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers that have signed the petition may only just want to declare their position against “forced labor” and choose to assist in the development of a supply chain traceability protocol in order to not have their products rejected by the US market.
When the US first proposed its opposition to “forced labor”, it was directed at China’s Xinjiang region. A lawyer friend of mine informed me that the key clause of the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” established a rebuttable presumption of guilt. That is, in Xinjiang or China, the labor of any person involved in “counter-part assistance” and “poverty alleviation” constitutes as forced labor, and the goods made from forced labor are not allowed to be imported into the United States. Last month, the US Customs issued an order prohibiting the release of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang.
Of course, the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in September last year, and expired on the 12th of last month, and it may be reinstated by Biden’s new administration.
As for the targeting of China PV’s industry, there is no need to wait for a new law. Without the need for a customs prohibition order, companies that have signed the pledge must take the initiative to show and prove to the US importer that their supply chain has nothing to do with Xinjiang.
The vice chairman of SEIA could not restrain his excitement in the statement: “Forced labor will not be tolerated in our industry. Given reports of labor abuses in Xinjiang and the inability to conduct independent audits there, solar companies should immediately move their supply chains out of the region. We’ve been calling on this for several months now and expect that most of the major suppliers should be out by June 2021, at the latest.”
The signing of the SEIA’s pledge is a maneuver for the U.S. to take advantage of Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers that do not want to abandon the demand of the US market. By declaring their principled stand against “forced labor”, they will have to self-certify that the production of products and the supply of raw materials do not involve forced labor. All the while unilaterally identifying that China’s Xinjiang region is involved in “forced labor”. Last month, the SEIA’s statement equated “forced labor” with China’s Xinjiang region.
In fact, the United States and the European Union are not the only ones opposed to “forced labor”, China also explicitly prohibits it. The China Photovoltaic Industry Association and Silicon Industry of China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association issued a statement on the matter on January 18. Chinese polysilicon company Daqo New Energy also declared zero tolerance for “forced labor”.
Aside from the government, associations, or enterprises declarations for their stance against “forced labor”, they all stated that they will not accept the unreasonable allegations of “forced labor” placed on Xinjiang!
The SEIA has recently stated that it will continue to work with legislative bodies, customs, the Biden government, and its international partners to ensure that solar products imported into the United States are certified “forced labor” free. Solar energy companies that have signed the pledge have agreed to work together to oppose such practices and to ensure that the products used and produced by various enterprises are separated from “forced labor” in Xinjiang or other parts of the world.
The so-called photovoltaic products that do not involve “forced labor” are equivalent to products not produced in Xinjiang, do not use polysilicon produced in Xinjiang, do not use polysilicon produced with silicon produced in Xinjiang. The aluminum frame of photovoltaic modules cannot be produced in Xinjiang. For aluminum, even the energy used in the production process cannot be generated from Xinjiang produced coal.
The acquiescence in Xinjiang “forced labor” accusations will cause China’s PV industry to enter into an endless loop designed by the US.
Products that are rejected by the United States in the name of human rights will also be rejected by Europe and the world.
My colleagues in the industry have their own plans, but I must sound the warning whistle as the situation worsens. I only wish to unite the masses and make long-term plans to deal with a crisis that is more serious than the US anti-dumping and countervailing investigation of the past.
Deputy Director of Expert Committee,
Silicon Industry of China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association
Sunday, February 7, 2021