Union accuses China of illegal trade tactics in clean-tech sector


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A major U.S. union came out swinging against China on Thursday, saying in fiery terms that the Asian giant was using illegal trade tactics to strong-arm Americans out of clean-tech jobs.

The United Steelworkers filed a 5,800-page petition with the U.S. trade representative alleging that China was giving Chinese firms unfair advantages over American companies.


The document complains that China used billions of dollars in subsidies, performance requirements, preferential practices and protectionist and predatory activities to dominate the solar and wind industries and other clean-energy sectors.

“This case draws a line in the sand,” said Leo W. Gerard, the union’s international president, in a statement. “We can’t rely on unending diplomatic niceties and non-productive photo opportunities masquerading as serious talks. We’re hemorrhaging jobs, seeing our bilateral trade deficit skyrocket and jeopardizing our future.”

Union Vice President Tom Conway proceeded to accuse China of “breaking every rule in the book.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) jumped in, adding in a statement that “there is no question that China is ignoring trade rules so that it can cheat its way to first place in the clean-energy manufacturing race.”

And according to a report out of Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) office, China’s exports of green goods skyrocketed more than 500% to more than $27 billion between 2004 and 2008. For the first time, China overtook the U.S. last year in funding for wind, solar and other clean-energy projects, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. While U.S. investments in the sector were $18.6 billion, the Chinese total was $34.6 billion.

But the Pew report said that much of the U.S. decline was attributed to the absence of a comprehensive national mandate for renewable energy production or a surcharge on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama administration has 45 days – until Oct. 24 -- before it must decide what to do with the petition. Action could mean launching an investigation into China’s clean-tech trade policies and result in the U.S. filing a case before the World Trade Organization.


The United Steelworkers is the largest industrial union in North America, with 850,000 members.

--Tiffany Hsu