According to climate envoy John Kerry, the Biden administration is contemplating sanctions in response to China’s suspected use of slave labour in the manufacture of solar panels and other clean energy products.
Kerry’s remarks at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing aimed to defuse one of the primary reasons used by congressional Republicans to oppose President Joe Biden’s drive for a climate-friendly economic transformation of the United States: China’s industrial domination threatens implicating consumers of Chinese-made solar panels, batteries, and green-energy technology in that country’s human rights violations.
Most of the world’s polysilicon, which is used in photovoltaic cells for solar panels, passes through China’s Xinjiang province, where the Chinese government has waged a long-running campaign against Chinese Muslims and ethnic minorities. This entails the incarceration of over a million people, according to advocacy activists, news media, and states, who are forced to serve in factories and other offices.Last month, China’s foreign ministry labeled the allegations as “lies and misleading facts concocted by anti-China powers.”
Republicans have used human rights issues over Chinese-made renewable-energy components, as well as China’s status as the world’s largest emitter of climate-wrecking fossil fuel emissions, to oppose Democratic demands to increase solar and wind output while decreasing coal and petroleum consumption.
“How can you assure us that … slave labor coming out of China, where genocide is taking place as we speak, are never a part of the climate solution in the United States?” asked Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the senior Republican on the committee.
Kerry told McCaul he was “absolutely correct” to raise the concern.
“It’s a problem,” Kerry admitted. He cited “solar panels that we suspect are being manufactured in some cases through forced labor.” Kerry also mentioned China’s rare earth minerals, that are used in things like magnets for wind turbines, among many other things.
Kerry stated that the administration was considering whether to apply such goods to the catalog of Xinjiang products already sanctioned by the US. He said that he had no idea where the administration stood in that analysis. The State Department did not immediately be reached for comment for clarification.
Biden is urging the United States to invest trillions of dollars in his jobs package and other initiatives that would retool the country’s power and transportation markets to emit less pollution from fossil fuels. This involves encouraging the use of solar, wind, and other alternative energies in the United States, as well as the the country’s patchy supply of components critical to those sectors.
“The best thing we could do is be more competitive” when it comes to China’s dominance in the field of climate-friendly tech, Kerry said. Other countries are “cornering the market on that – why aren’t we?” he asked.
Kerry, a former Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, is currently Vice President Joe Biden’s representative for environment and natural security.
Under questioning from Republicans on the committee, Kerry also reiterated his rejection of a report that he may have shared with Iran’s foreign minister intelligence indicating that Israel had threatened Iranian interests in Syria at least 200 times.
According to the New York Times, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the assertion in a video that was later leaked. According to the newspaper, Zarif expressed surprise at Kerry’s reporting.
“On no occasion. Never,” Kerry said, in one of several flat denials to GOP lawmakers’ demands for more details. “That didn’t happen. End of story.”
Kerry also mentioned that he had never witnessed or heard of 200 such attacks prior to the publication of the paper.