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by Mike Hall, Dec 22, 2010

Today the Obama administration outlined the actions it will take to address the United Steelworkers’ (USW) Section 301 trade case over China’s predatory and protectionist practices and policies in the clean energy technology sector. 

The USW’s petition says China’s government has used hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, performance requirements, preferential practices and other illegal trade activities to dominate the renewable energy market. USW President Leo Gerard says the White House action comes as an early note of holiday cheer for

those workers in the alternative and renewable energy sector who work hard, play by the rules and simply want a chance to compete. The administration has shown its commitment to enforcing the rules of trade by making it clear to the Chinese government that they will pursue U.S. interests.

The U.S. trade deficit with China in clean energy products more than doubled in the past two years alone and will cost more than 8,000 U.S. jobs in 2010. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analyzed trade data through August 2010 and found that the trade deficit with China soared at a time when the overall U.S. trade deficit and the U.S. clean energy deficit with other countries both fell sharply.  

The first step, says Gerard, will be for the administration to resolve matters where China says its practices had changed or were changing, or where China would agree to abandon its illegal activities.

The second calls for consultations with China where the administration believes the data and evidence was irrefutable and where the case was ready to prosecute. And third, says Gerard:

The administration has committed to an ongoing investigatory and evaluative work plan on the remaining issues in the petition and the investigation in order to obtain relief for the American worker.

The USW Section 301 petition shows that China is using a wide array of illegal trade policies including massive subsidies, restrictions on access to rare earth elements and other minerals, discrimination against foreign firms or goods, technology transfer requirements for foreign investors and making subsidies contingent on exports or domestic content.

Gerard says USW and the union movement “share the president’s goal of expanding the creation of ‘green’ jobs here in the United States.”

The promise of green jobs, however, will not become reality if China is allowed to dominate the sector through unfair and illegal actions… We cannot afford to simply accept more empty promises hoping that the Chinese will keep their word. Trade enforcement must be a higher priority in our nation’s policy agenda.

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