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Steelworkers: China unfair on clean energy

The United Steelworkers union asked the Obama administration to investigate Chinese policies and practices it said threatened to unfairly take U.S. clean energy jobs.
/ Source: Reuters

The United Steelworkers union on Thursday asked President Barack Obama's administration to investigate Chinese policies and practices it said threatened to unfairly take U.S. clean energy jobs.

"Green jobs are key to our future," Leo Gerard, president of the steelworkers union, said in statement.

"Right now, China is taking every possible step -- many of them illegal under international trade laws -- to ensure that it will control that sector. America can't afford to cede more of its manufacturing base to China," Gerard said.

The case comes at a time when Obama has touted the potential for new jobs in wind, solar and other clean energy sectors as an engine for U.S. economic growth.

The steelworkers said they filed a formal "section 301" petition with the U.S. Trade Representative's office on Thursday, asking for an investigation of "China's illegal activities in five key areas."

The union accused China trying to dominate the clean energy sector by providing billions of dollars in trade-distorting domestic subsidies, using prohibited export subsidies and prohibited domestic content subsidies, discriminating against foreign firms and goods, restricting access to critical material and imposing performance requirements on investors.

Tom Conway, the union's vice president, said the United States is losing its leadership in the clean-energy sector "in large part because of China's plans to control this industry no matter what. They're breaking every rule in the book."

A spokeswoman for the USTR said the agency would review the petition "in accordance with established procedures" and make a decision whether to investigate within 45 days.

Also, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke led a trade mission of nearly two dozen U.S. companies to China in May to try to boost sales in that country's renewable energy market which has been forecast to reach $100 billion by 2020.

Last October, Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk got a high-level Chinese commitment to remove local content requirements for foreign participation in China's wind farm market, which they said would boost U.S. jobs.

The steelworkers said they were unimpressed by pledges of U.S.-China cooperation on the clean energy front.

"We can't rely on unending diplomatic niceties and non-productive photo opportunities masquerading as serious talks," Gerard said. "We're hemorrhaging jobs, seeing our bilateral trade deficit skyrocket and jeopardizing our future."