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In bipartisan letter, Washington & Montana members of Congress cite the devastating impact of Chinese tariffs on polysilicon materials, particularly in Moses Lake

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA, 4th District), Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8th District), and Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th District) to renew their bipartisan defense of the U.S. polysilicon manufacturing industry in a letter to President Trump. The letter, which highlights immediate and dire threats to the U.S. polysilicon industry, comes as the devastating impacts of Chinese tariffs placed on polysilicon materials in 2014 could force the closure of REC Silicon in Moses Lake.

“In July we warned that the trade dispute between the U.S. and China over solar power was threatening hundreds of highly skilled jobs in Washington State and Montana, and we regret to inform you that REC will be forced to completely shutter its operations in Moses Lake, Washington at the end of this month,” the members of Congress wrote. “The closure will result in the loss of 150-200 highly skilled manufacturers and will severely impact the economy of Eastern Washington.”

In 2014, China placed tariffs on polysilicon materials, a key component in the production of semiconductors, solar panels, and other technology products, in retaliation for U.S. tariffs previously imposed on energy products from China. The move effectively locked U.S. polysilicon manufacturers out of the market, forcing the closure of REC Silicon at its Moses Lake plant, which relied on Chinese imports of polysilicon materials.

In today’s bipartisan letter to President Trump, the members of Congress urged the president to find an immediate resolution to the trade dispute over Chinese solar panels and American polysilicon, noting that hundreds more highly skilled workers could lose their jobs if a solution isn’t found.

“We strongly encourage your trade negotiators to raise the issues facing the U.S. polysilicon industry, and we request a progress report on these negotiations as soon as possible,” the letter states. “We believe a resolution over solar panels and polysilicon could serve as a symbol of good faith on both sides, protect intellectual property that provides domestic manufacturers a competitive edge, and spark meaningful progress in the larger trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.”

In July of this year, a similar letter was sent to President Trump to underscore the importance of the U.S. polysilicon industry to local economies in Washington and across the country.

In addition to Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives Newhouse, Reichert, and Heck, the bipartisan letter was also signed by the members of Montana’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (R-MT).

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

September 21, 2018

 

Dear Mr. President:

We write to follow up on a letter sent July 23, 2018 regarding REC Silicon and the U.S. polysilicon manufacturing industry. In July we warned that the trade dispute between the U.S. and China over solar power was threatening hundreds of highly skilled jobs in Washington State and Montana, and we regret to inform you that REC will be forced to completely shutter its operations in Moses Lake, Washington at the end of this month. The closure will result in the loss of 150-200 highly skilled manufacturers and will severely impact the economy of Eastern Washington.  

As you are undoubtedly aware, in 2012 the Obama Administration unsuccessfully attempted to bolster domestic solar manufacturing capacity by levying tariffs on imported solar panels from China. In response, China announced a 50% tariff on American polysilicon, a crucial input in the production of semiconductors and solar panels. The impact of this Chinese retaliation has been devastating to the U.S. polysilicon industry, which has shed thousands of jobs since China announced tariffs in 2014. The damage inflicted on the US polysilicon industry was of course an unintended consequence, but one that has dramatically affected our constituents. We strongly urge you to move past the unsuccessful actions of the past Administration and find an immediate resolution to the trade dispute over Chinese solar panels and American polysilicon. 

According to news reports, your Administration may soon reengage China in a new round of trade talks. We strongly encourage your trade negotiators to raise the issues facing the U.S. polysilicon industry, and we request a progress report on these negotiations as soon as possible. We also implore you to separate the negotiations over solar power from the larger bilateral trade conversations between the U.S. and China. The threats to the U.S. polysilicon industry are immediate and dire, and we believe this sectoral dispute could be resolved in a short period of time. We believe a resolution over solar panels and polysilicon could serve as a symbol of good faith on both sides, protect intellectual property that provides domestic manufacturers a competitive edge, and spark meaningful progress in the larger trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.              

As we wrote in July, it is imperative the United States obtain a positive and permanent resolution for U.S. polysilicon companies like REC Silicon. Without a resolution, hundreds of highly skilled workers will lose their jobs and U.S. control of the world’s most advanced polysilicon technology could be jeopardized.  

Sincerely,