Customs seizures of solar panels

Customs seizures of solar panels

February 28, 2022 | By Keith Martin in Washington, DC

US Customs is starting to release some blocked Chinese solar panels.

A federal task force is collecting suggestions by March 10 for how best to prevent Chinese products that use polysilicon or other components made with forced labor from entering the United States.

US Customs released nearly 100 megawatts of detained LONGi solar panels in February and the vast majority of Trina solar panels after initially blocking entry over concerns that the panels may have benefited from forced labor in Xinjiang in western China.

US Customs detained 1,469 shipments of goods that were suspected of being made with forced labor in fiscal year 2021.

Meanwhile, the US government is moving toward a deadline of June 21 to implement a new Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that Congress enacted in late December to block products made with forced labor in Xinjiang from entering the United States.

The new law requires the government to collect suggestions on implementation, then hold a public hearing and then publish a strategy by June 21 by when comprehensive enforcement measures are supposed to be in place.

The Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force kicked off the process by asking for suggestions in a January 24 Federal Register notice. The task force, which was created under the US-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, is looking for ideas on potential measures that can be taken to trace the origin of goods, offer greater supply chain transparency and identify third-country supply chain routes that lead back to forced labor and the People’s Republic of China.

The comments and a public hearing this spring are supposed to lead to a strategy that includes publication of various lists, including Xinjiang entities that use forced labor to produce goods, Chinese products that are made with forced labor, entities that export such products and factories and companies that “source materials from” Xinjiang.

The new law identified three high-priority sectors for enforcement: cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon.

The strategy is supposed to include an enforcement plan for each high-priority sector.

It is also supposed to inform importers what due diligence and supply-chain tracing they are expected to do and the type of evidence that can be used to prove no connection to Chinese forced labor.

US companies trying to purge supply chains of forced labor are running into resistance from Chinese suppliers who bristle at western claims of genocide in Xinjiang and fear violating Chinese laws against enabling western trade sanctions.

The task force is supposed to send its first report to Congress by June 21, 2022 laying out the strategy and then to update Congress annually.

The new law directs Customs to presume that any goods produced or exported by entities on the entity lists should be blocked from entry. The presumption can be overcome in theory by showing that the importer of record fully complied with all of the guidance for diligence and supply-chain tracing and answered all questions from Customs.

Any exceptions granted must be reported to Congress within 30 days.

The task force must also report twice a year to Congress on the number of times goods are denied entry and provide descriptions of the blocked goods.

These measures will remain in effect for eight years through the end of 2029, unless the US president tells Congress sooner that China has ended mass internments, forced labor and any other gross violations of human rights of ethnic minorities.