“Let the Commerce Department do what it’s supposed to do,” says Mamud Rashid, CEO of Auxin Solar, during an appearance on The Manufacturing Report podcast.
Efforts to undermine a Commerce Department investigation into whether China is circumventing U.S. trade enforcement by shipping solar products through four other countries are “mindboggling,” according to the CEO of the Auxin Solar Inc., the California company that filed the trade case.
The Commerce Department is set to issue its preliminary findings by August 30. But special interest groups, funded in part by several Chinese solar companies, are working overtime to quash the investigation.
Auxin Solar CEO Mamud Rashid, appearing on The Manufacturing Report podcast, said there is strong evidence that China is purposely avoiding paying legal duties on its solar products by shipping them through Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand. He criticized both policymakers and importers for mounting opposition, especially given the “clear” evidence in this case. Rashid said:
“It doesn’t matter how large or small that company is, or what you think about the company, but if somebody’s pointing out to the Commerce Department a potential violation of U.S. trade law, we must allow that to continue.”
Former President Barack Obama placed duties on heavily subsidized solar products from China. President Trump imposed additional Section 201 tariffs on certain imported solar products in 2018, and the Biden administration has upheld some aspects of them. Now there’s strong evidence that companies in China are sending solar products through four Southeast Asian countries to avoid the duties.
That is a violation of U.S trade law, and warrants a Commerce Department investigation. Should Commerce determine that these imports are indeed being unfairly traded, new duties must be issued. Rashid explained:
“It was a suspicion at first, and then we saw the data, and it’s so clear. You can see it ramp down, the exports from China coming into the U.S., and at the same rate, it ramps up in Southeast Asia. … It was unusual, all of the sudden a country like Cambodia that did not have this technology, overnight increases their capacity so quickly.”
Auxin Solar launched during the Great Recession to provide an American-made option for solar panels, for delivery in the United States and abroad. The company makes both traditional solar panels and custom products for consumers. Rashid said:
“We have zero fear of competition, I’ll compete all day long with other manufacturers, I welcome other manufacturers to come online in the U.S., so long as it’s a level playing field, we’ll compete all day long. And if we lose out, that’s on us. We can compete, that’s all we’re saying, it’s just got to be a level playing field.”
It’s not just one company at stake in this case, Rashid pointed out. The United States invented solar technology, and we risk ceding our own innovation to China if we find ourselves unable to manufacture these products, which will be essential to transition to clean energy. He explained:
“We’re not talking about delivering toothbrushes. We’re talking about delivering the equipment that generates the power that we think, that everyone agrees, is going to be the power of choice for the foreseeable future, until something else gets invented. It’s energy. So, to be dependent on another part of the world and not be self-sufficient seems a little short-sighted.”
You can find the full episode of The Manufacturing Report podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts.