USTR launches probe of China’s green trade practices

The United Steelworkers (USW) filed a petition with USTR last month alleging China is freezing foreign suppliers out of its renewable-power generation projects, while using quotas and other restrictions to block export of raw materials vital to production of solar panels, wind turbines and advanced batteries, among other allegations.

“The USW has raised issues covering a wide array of Chinese government policies affecting trade and investment in green technologies. This is a vitally important sector for the United States. Green technology will be an engine for the jobs of the future, and this Administration is committed to ensuring a level playing field for American workers, businesses and green technology entrepreneurs,” said United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk in a statement Friday.

He said USTR would probe the allegations for up to 90 days.

“For those allegations that are supported by sufficient evidence and that can effectively be addressed through WTO dispute settlement, we will vigorously pursue the enforcement of our rights through WTO litigation,” Kirk said. 

Kirk's action drew cheers from the USW and the AFL-CIO.

"This decision is significant for millions of working people who are watching their jobs disappear because of an uneven playing field with China,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement Friday. “Led by USW, the labor movement is committed to addressing and eliminating Chinese government policies that undermine America’s working families.”

“Whether in tire manufacturing, currency manipulation or the clean energy sector, the Chinese government cannot continue to violate international norms with respect to subsidies, investment, worker rights and trade policy — at the expense of American workers and producers,” he added.

Several senators, including Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), had urged the White House to accept the USW petition.