© REC Silicon ASA_ General | October 23, 2019
U.S. silicon industry presses Congress for inclusion in tariff talks
Three major U.S. silicon industry manufacturers urged members of congress to include tariffs, imposed by the Chinese on U.S. exports of polysilicon to China since 2014, in ongoing U.S. trade talks with the country.
Representatives from the three largest polysilicon manufacturers, Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC), REC Silicon, and Wacker Chemie AG told members of the U.S. House Manufacturing Caucus yesterday that Chinese tariffs imposed on U.S.-made polysilicon over the past five years have destabilized the industry, making the U.S. effectively reliant on China for this fundamental material used by the semiconductor and solar industries to make ingots and wafers for solar cells and the integrated circuits that power smartphones, autonomous vehicles, and other electronics. The U.S. polysilicon industry represents over USD 10 billion in capital investment and employs thousands in high-skilled, high-wage jobs. According to the business leaders, U.S. polysilicon exports to China have dropped by almost 90%, from USD 1 billion in 2011 to USD 107 million in 2018. Also voiced was the need for programs and cash incentives to bolster critical links in the U.S. solar value and supply chains and for the federal solar tax credit to be extended. In a press release, REC Silicon said the damage done as a result of the tariffs among the three representatives companies was illustrated at the meeting. REC Silicon, which currently produces polysilicon in Butte, Montana, was forced to shutter its USD 1.7 billion plant in Moses Lake, Washington in July; HSC was forced to close a nearly new polysilicon plant in Tennessee in 2014 after the Chinese tariffs took effect; a SunEdison polysilicon plant in Pasadena, Texas, closed in 2015 and was purchased by a Chinese company, allowing China access to SunEdison’s patented technology. HSC Senior VP and Chief Commercial Officer Phil Dembowski told the caucus, “Preserving U.S. production capacity is vital for maintaining U.S. competitive advantages in critical defense, energy and innovation industries. Through these tariffs, China is effectively trying to corner the world market on this important building block for the solar and electronics industries.” REC Silicon VP of Business Development Francine Sullivan said, “We produce some of the lowest cost high-purity polysilicon in the world at our U.S. plants, but China’s actions have forced us to halve our production and lay off around 600 workers. Allowing the Chinese to have these unfair tariffs while subsidizing its own polysilicon production is costing the U.S. high paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment.” Christian Westermeier, Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG’s VP of Sales and Application Engineering joined with Wacker Silicon VP Mary Beth Hudson to reiterate the need for a halt to the tariffs, the same press release said. “When Wacker invested USD 2.5 billion to build its polysilicon plant in Tennessee, it was our biggest investment we had ever made in the U.S. in our more than 100-year history,” Westermeier said of the plant that opened in 2016. Hudson added, “Unfortunately, even while the global solar — and semiconductor — markets are growing, China’s determination to dominate this industry worldwide has left U.S. producers with an ever-smaller share of this important energy source.” U.S. House Manufacturing Caucus Co-Chairmen Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), said Tuesday’s meeting gave lawmakers the opportunity to learn more about manufacturing industries that are pivotal to maintaining the U.S. lead in defense, energy and innovation industries. Present at the meeting were members of Congress and staff from Michigan, Tennessee, Montana and Washington State along with others interested in polysilicon trade issues.