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Union charges that China illegally boosts its green energy technology industry
While heralding the president's decision to put solar panels on the White House roof, a union-backed coalition says it would be an "empty gesture" if the administration didn't also address trade-distorting subsidies from China, the world's leading maker of solar panels.
In a letter to the President, the Alliance for Manufacturing, a coalition of the United Steelworkers and several manufacturers, demanded action on the issue. AAM Executive Director Scott Paul wrote, "Our goal must not only be to install American-produced solar panels in the White House, but to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to reap the benefits of clean energy generated with equipment produced here at home. This opportunity is in jeopardy."
At issue is the coalition's bid to push the administration to address China's alleged illegal practices in violation of international trade agreements to boost their own green energy technology industries. Last month the steelworkers filed a petition with the U.S. Trade Representative over China that documents claims that the Communist country stimulates and protects its green technology makers.
While the White House solar panels are to be made in the United States, most Americans buy the less-expensive Chinese versions which dominate the world market. "It would be one thing if China were achieving this dominance fairly. But it routinely flouts existing trade agreements. American businesses and workers both want and demand a level playing field and should not be disadvantaged by China's unfair practices. Admirably, you have been outspoken in your advocacy for green technology and renewable resources. Green jobs are the key to the future vibrancy of the U.S. economy, and critical to reducing our dependence on foreign energy supplies," wrote Paul.
Here is his full letter sent:
Dear Mr. President:
We applaud the recent decision to install solar panels on the White House. It sends an important message to the country and the world that the United States is committed to the use of green technologies that will bolster our economy, improve our environment and move the nation closer to energy independence.
Our goal must not only be to install American-produced solar panels on the White House, but to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to reap the benefits of clean energy generated with equipment produced here at home.
This opportunity is in jeopardy. In violation of international trade agreements, China's communist party leaders have imposed more than 80 laws, regulations and practices--including massive subsidies--that set prices undercutting U.S. competitors, restrict access to critical raw materials, block the importation of goods produced by U.S. manufacturers, and force the transfer of green technology from the U.S. to China.
All of this is detailed in The United Steelworkers (USW) Section 301 petition filed last month with the U.S. Trade Representative. The petition documents how China illegally stimulates and protects its producers of green technology exports--ranging from wind and solar energy products to advanced batteries and energy-efficient vehicles.
The petition demonstrates how these illegally subsidized and supported Chinese renewable energy products have weakened the stimulus effect of your Recovery Act spending, and how these illegal Chinese practices threaten the future of America's renewable energy sector.
A study by the Economic Policy Institute shows the U.S. will lose more than 500,000 jobs to China in 2010 alone. Losing green technology to China is not the sole reason for these continuing job losses, but it plays a significant part.
The facts are startling:
-- China's exports of green goods rose more than 400 percent between 2004 and 2009.
-- China is on track to make almost half of the world's wind turbines this year and will produce more than 50 percent of the world's solar panels. Nearly all--95 percent--of its solar panels are exported to the U.S. and other countries
-- At the same time, U.S. wind manufacturing was cut by a third in 2009, and U.S. exports now make up only 3.7 percent of Europe's solar cell and panel market, compared to China's 34 percent share.
It would be one thing if China were achieving this dominance fairly. But it routinely flouts existing trade agreements. American businesses and workers both want and demand a level playing field and should not be disadvantaged by China's unfair practices.
Admirably, you have been outspoken in your advocacy for green technology and renewable resources. Green jobs are the key to the future vibrancy of the U.S. economy, and critical to reducing our dependence on foreign energy supplies.
As we all know, this is certainly not the first time in recent years that China has sought to dominate a U.S. market. Just more than a year ago, you courageously stood up to China's attempt to flood America with Chinese-manufactured tires--and imposed tariffs that stemmed the bleeding away of tire manufacturing jobs from the U.S. work force. You took a strong stand on behalf of America's working men and women, and it worked.
With the October 24th deadline for action on the 301 petition only days away, we believe that this is an opportunity to end China's opportunistic and illegal practices and help create a level playing field for America's talented and highly skilled green businesses and workers.
Alliance for American Manufacturing
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Steelworkers Push Obama On China Trade