Hemlock Semiconductor, a leading manufacturer of polysilicon, is hoping new trade talks between the U.S. and China reopens the Chinese market.
The U.S. has been mostly shut out of polysilicon trade with the Asian country since 2014. The Chinese government imposed a 57 percent tariff on all U.S. exports of the product, drastically reducing what was $1 billion in exports in 2011 to only $107 million in 2018.
Polysilicon is used in numerous computer components and solar panels, but only four states in the U.S. have manufacturers of the product. Hemlock Semiconductor’s Vice President of External Affairs Brooke Beebe says being cut off from that market has already hurt the industry. Two polysilicon plants have closed since 2014, resulting in 1,400 lost jobs.
Beebe says they just want access.
“Moving forward, we’re simply seeking open market access to the Chinese market. We would like to see those tariffs that have been on the polysilicon industry removed.”
Beebe says the company isn’t looking for any kind of subsidies from the U.S. government but supports providing “incentive to U. S. developers who are installing solar in the U.S. to pull through solar products that are manufactured here, and really provide that additional benefit to the entire value chain.”
U.S. manufactured polysilicon has fallen from 34 percent of the global supply in 2010 to only 10 percent in 2019, even though the global solar market continues to grow.
U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee visited the company Thursday, October 10 to discuss the impacts of the tariffs and more recent Chinese tariffs on solar panels. He says as the country and world transitions more to green energy, having access to those markets becomes crucial.
“If we’re really talking about trying to be green, we should not just be focusing on how we generate energy through solar panels, but the process of producing those panels should be part of the conversation. I want to support these American companies because it’s good for the environment but it’s also really good for the U.S. economy. And these tariffs are making it difficult for us to compete.”
As the trade dispute with China continues, Kildee has been critical of how President Donald Trump has handled the situation. As a member of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, he agrees China needs to be dealt with, but not at the expense of other U.S. trading partners.
“What I worry about is the approach he’s taken in dealing with China is sort of like being in the right church but the wrong pew. He’s right to take on China, but he should not have put Canada and our European allies and other trading partners on the opposite side of the table by treating them as if they’re a national security threat.”
Kildee says he feels a resolution with the trade issue would be much closer had the U.S. enlisted the aid of its trading partners.
As it stands, the new round of trade talks have begun on a positive note as President Trump and Chinese officials hash out negotiations in what will likely be a lengthy process.