© REC Silicon ASA_ General | January 18, 2020
U.S. polysilicon makers laud Phase 1 of China deal
The United States’ three remaining manufacturers of polysilicon expressed appreciation to President Trump and praised U.S. negotiators for securing the Chinese commitment to purchase U.S. polysilicon in the first phase of the U.S.-China trade deal.
A press release distributed by one of those three key players, Michigan’s Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC), said that part of the trio’s message to President Trump included acknowledgement that any benefit for U.S. manufacturers and workers will depend on what China does in response to the agreement. Polysilicon, a critical component in the semiconductor and solar industries, is used to manufacture ingots and wafers for solar cells and the integrated circuits that power nearly everything that is electronic. The U.S. polysilicon industry represents over USD 10 billion in capital investment and employs thousands in high-skilled, high-wage jobs. In the press release, HSC Chairman and CEO Mark Bassett said, “We hope this agreement will result in a more level playing field for this important building block to the solar and electronics industries. Maintaining and expanding U.S. production capacity is vital to supporting high-wage American manufacturing jobs based on high-tech innovation.” China closed its market to U.S. polysilicon in 2014 by imposing tariffs on imports of U.S-made solar-grade polysilicon. The same year, HSC abandoned its investment of over USD 1 billion in a state-of-the-art polysilicon plant in Tennessee. Following China’s tariffs on imports to the U.S. in 2014, the country heavily subsidized its own polysilicon producers and shifted focus to satisfying the demand for polysilicon in China. Unfortunately, the policy resulted in massive overcapacity in China, burdening the global industry and worsening conditions for the U.S. polysilicon industry. Included in the same press release, Mary Beth Hudson, VP of one of the other two U.S. polysilicon makers, Wacker Polysilicon, said, “Regaining meaningful market access to China, which represents over 92% of global polysilicon demand, is essential to the U.S. polysilicon industry. This Phase 1 agreement represents an important first step in resuming exports and meeting the increasing demand of Chinese customers for highest quality polysilicon.” The third U.S. maker, REC Silicon, shuttered it’s USD 1.7 billion plant in Moses Lake, Washington recently, laying off approximately 450 workers. The company still operates a plant in Butte, Montana. REC Silicon President and CEO Tore Torvund said, “It is really positive that the U.S. government has recognized the importance of the U.S. polysilicon industry. Being locked out of the global market for polysilicon for the last several years has cost the U.S. high-paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment. While we hope that this partial restoration of access to China’s polysilicon market will improve the outlook for U.S. polysilicon producers, it’s imperative that the U.S. continues to focus on developing and strengthening critical links in the solar value and supply chains, providing a market for our polysilicon and other U.S. solar manufacturers here in the vibrant domestic U.S. solar market.”