US Steelworkers Lash out at Chinese Clean Energy Subsidies

10 September 2010

The United Steelworkers union in the US has filed a trade case against China accusing it of unfairly subsidising its clean energy industry. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) says it has received the union’s petition and that it will reach a decision on whether to open an investigation within the next 45 days.

The union submitted the document to the USTR on 9 September, highlighting five main areas of protectionist policies used by China that they say gives their green sector an unfair advantage over US companies and violate WTO free-trade rules.

"These practices have enabled China to emerge as a dominant supplier of green technology,” said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union (USW) in the US. "Right now, China is taking every possible step - many of them illegal under international trade laws - to ensure that it will control that sector.”

The USW accuses China of subsidising companies that export green energy products such as solar panels and wind turbines. They also complain that China blocks the importation of clean energy goods and restricts the sale of exhaustible natural resources that foreign energy firms need in order to compete with Chinese companies.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the US, expressed hope for a bilateral agreement between the US and China regarding the clean energy industry. “Great potential exists between China and the US in developing clean energy…with the aim of creating a win-win situation commercially and helping combat the climate change effect,” Wang said.

China claims that their investment in clean energy will benefit worldwide goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but trade experts maintain that Chinese protectionist policies may lead to WTO involvement.

If the US Trade Representative accepts the USW petition, the case may be heard in front of a WTO dispute settlement panel.

A decision by the USTR regarding the petition is expected by 24 October.

ICTSD Reporting; “Union Accuses China of Illegal Clean Energy Subsidies,” NEW YORK TIMES, 9 September 2010; “Steelworkers want Obama to sue China over green energy subsidy,” ECONOMICTIMES.COM, 10 September 2010; “U.S. steelworkers target China,” THE WASHINGTON POST, 10 September 2010.

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