MOSES LAKE, Wash. — REC Silicon, a leading producer of the advanced silicon materials used in solar panels and electronic components, recently laid off 95 employees at its Moses Lake plant as a result of Chinese tariffs on silicon imposed during the Obama administration.
The entire plant and its remaining 200 highly skilled jobs maybe lost in coming months if trade disputes with China are not resolved, Washington and Montana members of Congress wrote in a July 23 letter to Trump administration officials.
REC Silicon is headquartered in Norway and operates plants in Moses Lake and Butte, Mont. The company is a leading supplier of high-purity polysilicon and silicon gases to the solar and electronic component industries worldwide.
On July 2, the company laid off 95 workers in Moses Lake, bringing total layoffs there to 300 since China imposed tariffs in 2014 in retaliation for Obama tariffs placed on energy products from China.
The tariffs effectively locked U.S. polysilicon manufacturers such as REC Silicon, which rely on Chinese imports of polysilicon materials, out of the market.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash., and the Montana congressional delegation sent a letter to the Trump administration urging a resolution while “persuading China to play fair.”
The administration’s accelerated trade dispute with China and other trading partners is hurting Washington’s economy including agriculture and airplane exports, they wrote.
The latest layoffs are the most severe to date and “we fear further job loss to this degree hits particularly hard in rural communities like Moses Lake where the unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, almost double the national average,” the members wrote.
“Without a permanent resolution, a series of harmful economic effects will continue to domino in our states and the U.S. will suffer severe and possibly irreversible setbacks in its ability to manufacture semiconductors, solar panels and other new technology products without reliance on China,” the members wrote.