SEIA board facing call to resign over stance on US-China trade spat

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The CEO and board of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) must resign over its position in the US-China trade row, according to the largest privately held installer in the US.

PetersenDean has issued a letter to the SEIA claiming that it has failed to represent American interests in the trade dispute. The Department of Commerce is due to deliver its final determination in the case today.

According to the company, the presence of firms with Chinese parent companies on the SEIA board has created a conflict of interest.

In the letter, PetersenDean claims that the organisation is currently failing to meet part of its remit to “keep America competitive”.

“SEIA is now a tool used by Chinese companies to try and bankrupt and destroy American solar manufacturing. Your alliance with Chinese manufacturers is responsible for thousands of American workers who have lost their jobs in the past three years due to the closure of solar manufacturing plants in the US at a time when our domestic economy and employment are struggling to recover from the devastating recession,” the letter claims.

“SEIA needs to be reorganised so that the membership structure includes a greater balance of industry interests while ameliorating the undue influences of the Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers,” it continues.

PetersenDean employs 4,600 people and has pledged to use only US produced products. In April 2014, it agreed a supply deal with SolarWorld, the petitioner in the US trade case. It was called as a witness in favour of new trade measures at a hearing in Washington DC at the US International Trade Commission earlier this month.

Speaking to PV Tech last week, the SEIA VP for trade and competitiveness, John Smirnow, defended the organisation’s claim to represent the US industry.

“Our definition of representing the US solar industry is that we represent 1000 US firms, 98% of which are headquartered in the US. Solarworld represents 0.5% of US solar jobs. Three of SEIA’s 34 board members are affiliates of Chinese headquartered companies, none of those are on SEIA executive committees or chair any committee or working group,” said Smirnow.

Last week, SolarWorld Americas claimed Chinese manufacturers had refused to take part in settlement talks since July although separate sources identified six meetings in five US cities since then, between representatives of the US and Chinese solar industry.

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