MOSES LAKE — Employees of REC Silicon are asking President Donald Trump to intervene on their behalf in a trade dispute with China over polysilicon used in the production of solar panels
“President Trump was elected to save U.S. workers and businesses,” said Francine Sullivan, the vice president of business development for REC Silicon. “We’d like him to take this opportunity to do something for us.”
Sullivan has been in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with senior administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, to try to move the administration to rule in their favor in the ongoing dispute.
In 2012, U.S. officials imposed additional duties on Chinese and Taiwanese solar cells after finding the two countries were illegally dumping solar panels on the U.S. market. In retaliation, the Chinese government imposed significant tariffs on U.S. polysilicon — an essential component of solar panels — preventing U.S. manufacturers like REC from competing in the very lucrative Chinese market.
As a result, REC Silicon has laid off roughly half of its employees at its Moses Lake and Butte, Montana, facilities, and the company — along with the entire polysilicon sector — has struggled to stay afloat.
“Our company and industry have been devastated by the solar/polysilicon trade war between the US and China,” reads the letter from REC employees in Moses Lake. “Seeing our co-workers lose their jobs has been wrenching, but the remaining jobs are at risk if this crippling dispute is not resolved soon.”
“In a time of rising global demand for polysilicon, opportunities for US producers — the most efficient and competitive manufacturers of polysilicon in the world — should be experiencing healthy expansion, not rapid contraction,” the letter continues.
Sullivan said REC is more than capable of competing with China given the company’s proprietary production process and dedicated workforce.
“The Chinese cannot produce what REC does, we invested $1.7 billion in our production process in Moses Lake,” Sullivan said. “We have been fighting for our survival. We’re asking the president to save our industry and save our company.”
Sullivan says the deadline for making a decision in the trade dispute is coming due in the next few weeks.
REC Silicon is listed on the Oslo Børs — Norway’s stock exchange — and closed the trading week at 1.49 Norwegian kroner (about 19 cents) per share.