Should the U.S. Ban All Solar Panels Made in China With Forced Labor From Uyghur Muslims?
Do you support or oppose banning solar panels made in China with forced labor from Uyghurs?
What’s the story?
- Congress is weighing legislation that would ban solar panels made with forced labor in Xinjiang, China, by Uyghur Muslim minorities who have faced persecution and genocide at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. That legislation has put the Biden administration in a bind as it attempts to reconcile its climate goals and China’s hold over the solar panel supply chain with commitments to support human rights.
- Earlier this year, the Commerce Dept. announced that it would ban imports of solar panels and related materials from several Chinese companies linked to forced labor in Xinjiang, including the Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries, which reportedly intimidated, threatened, and restricted the movement of its Uyghur workers. Customs and Border Protection announced that it began detaining such shipments in June.
- Members of Congress have signaled a willingness to go further on the matter. The Senate unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in July. If enacted, the bill would sanction companies and individuals involved with the use of forced labor in Xinjiang under authorities created by the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which became law last year. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would also bar the importation of goods presumed to have been made with forced labor in Xinjiang or by entities affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.
- President Joe Biden said in October that he has been taking “concrete steps to put human rights back at the center of our foreign policy.” However, the Biden administration is reportedly concerned that the enactment of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would ban all of the polysilicon ― the material inside most solar panels ― that comes from Xinjiang, which could make it more difficult to meet climate goals. The bill has been stalled in the House since it passed the Senate unanimously over three months ago.
- China controls a significant share of the solar panel market with many suppliers sourcing materials from Hoshine, so blocking more imports over forced labor ties could continue to increase costs, making solar energy less financially viable until the supply chain eventually stabilizes. The Washington Post reported that a key deputy of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has told lawmakers the U.S. will need five to 10 years to move the global supply chain for solar panels away from Xinjiang and needs flexibility in the transition.
- Biden administration National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was asked by RealClearPolitics’ Phil Wegmann about a statement by Chinese officials that there is a contradiction between the U.S. urging China to reduce emissions while also sanctioning their solar panel companies over forced labor concerns, and Sullivan responded:
“The president strongly believes that we can both take a strong stand against forced labor and against slave labor anywhere it occurs, including in Xinjiang, and at the same time cultivate and develop a robust and effective solar power supply chain. There is no reason that the U.S. or any other country should be forced to choose between these two issues.”
— Eric Revell
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