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US restricts silica and polysilicon imports

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order yesterday against Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd. in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Uyghur minority in the region has been widely reported to be forced to work in camps.

The Withhold Release Order instructs personnel at all U.S. ports of entry to immediately begin to detain shipments containing silica-based products made by Hoshine and its subsidiaries. These products include polysilicon in solar panels.

This is one reason why there is increased focus on perovskite materials for solar cell production in the US and Europe.

While Hoshine said it did not export polysilicon to the US, the CBP said there was $6m of direct imports from Hoshine and $150 million of downstream products using Hoshine materials over the last two years. More importantly, eight polysilicon manufacturers that account for over 90 percent of solar-grade polysilicon have all been mentioned by Hoshine as customers in reports.

“As President Biden made clear at the recent G7 summit, the United States will not tolerate modern-day slavery in our supply chains,” said US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “This Withhold Release Order demonstrates we continue to protect human rights and international labor standards and promote a more fair and competitive global marketplace by fulfilling the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ending forced labour.”

“Forced labour is a human rights abuse that hurts vulnerable workers, weakens the global economy, and exposes consumers to unethically made merchandise,” said Troy Miller, CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner. “CBP will continue to set a high global standard by aggressively investigating allegations of forced labor in U.S. supply chains and keeping tainted merchandise out of the United States.”   

The order was issued after an investigation into silica-based products imported into the United States from the Xinjiang region. During the investigation, CBP identified two of the International Labour Organization’s indicators of forced labour in Hoshine’s production process: intimidation and threats, and restriction of movement. 

During the 47th G7 summit earlier this month, the United States and G7 countries committed to removing forced labour from global supply chains.

The US Department of Labor has also added polysilicon from Xinjiang to its List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour and the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed additional license requirements on the export, reexport, or in-country transfer of goods from certain Xinjiang-based polysilicon producers over concerns about those entities’ use of forced labour.

Withhold Release Orders are not outright bans. Importers of detained shipments have an opportunity to demonstrate that the merchandise was not imported in violation of the legislation or to export their shipments. Alongside Hoshine Silicon, the US Entity list of organisations with restricted products includes Xinjiang Daqo New Energy, Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals, Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology, and XPCC, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps responsible for building the camps.

Six other Withhold Release Orders issued this year cover cotton and tomato products from the Xinjiang region and certain seafoods.

The list of Withhold Release Orders is available at CBP.gov

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