REC Silicon may be forced to shutter Washington operations due to trade war

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REC Silicon ASA said on Tuesday that it will be forced to shut down its remaining production capacity in Moses Lake, Washington, and lay off some 400 of its current 720 employees if the solar trade war continues and China maintains its 57% duty on its solar grade polysilicon imports.

REC Silicon CEO Tore Torvund said, "REC Silicon was brought into the solar trade war in retaliation for a dispute regarding imports of solar panels from China into the U.S. Now there is a resolution deal on the table between the U.S. and China that would provide Chinese panel companies with valuable market access in the U.S. provided that at solution can be found also for U.S. polysilicon. A global resolution of both the Chinese solar panels and U.S. polysilicon trade barriers provides enormous benefits for the whole of China’s dynamic and rapidly growing PV industry.”

Torvud added that it was not understandable why China had “not yet seized this unique opportunity for a mutually beneficial solar trade resolution, which would give China substantial financial returns.”

Despite numerous negotiations, the polysilicon dispute remains unresolved, Torvud said. “It is perplexing that Chinese polysilicon makers, who claim to have highly competitive production costs and only have capacity to serve less than half of China’s growing polysilicon demand, could jeopardize the global resolution of the entire U.S. and China solar trade war. It is particularly baffling when additional competitive polysilicon supply is needed in China if its leading PV industry is to expand to its full potential to meet the world’s increasing demand for solar energy.”

There will likely be no resolution on Chinese solar panels imported into the U.S. without a deal providing reasonable market access for U.S. polysilicon into China, the chief exec stressed.

The company, which is headquartered in Norway but operates mainly in Moses Lake, added that little progress had been made on resolving the part of the solar trade war that adversely impacts solar grade polysilicon manufactured in the U.S., despite an enormous amount of recent work by numerous parties, led by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

REC Silicon said that the White House, Chinese solar industry associations, including the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME), and affected Chinese and U.S. PV companies had recently made “significant progress towards a deal which would resolve the solar panel trade dispute between the U.S. and China.” It added, however, that without a solution also for polysilicon, “there will be no resolution of the trade war.”

The company nevertheless stressed that it remained hopeful that China would eventually make a deal on U.S. polysilicon “in connection with the current opportunity for a global resolution of the solar trade war, which creates substantial value and multiple benefits for China.”