WASHINGTON, DC—As part of the effort to promote energy independence and the U.S. manufacture of clean energy technology, 43 U.S. Senators, led by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), sent a letter to President Obama last week urging the administration to act upon China’s unfair trade practices that were identified in a recent petition delivered by the U.S. Steelworkers to the United States Trade Representative.
The letter states that China has been using “subsidies, market access barriers, and other market distorting policies” to tilt the global market in clean energy manufacturing toward its favor. Exports of clean energy goods from China have increased more than 400 percent between 2004 and 2009, and China’s exports are displacing U.S. exports in third-country markets. The letter calls on the administration to enforce U.S. rights and China’s obligations in order to level the playing field for American producers.
U.S. trade law provides the ability for workers to file a formal petition with the government that identifies unfair trade practices. The petition filed by the Steelworkers identifies numerous practices specific to the green goods sector that appear to violate the commitments China made to the U.S. and other WTO members when it joined the organization ten years ago.
“Strengthening the global trading system by ensuring that its rules are followed is critical now more than ever, as the PRC is already demonstrating its willingness to flout its WTO obligations and manage its exports for its own geopolitical purposes,” the senators wrote in the letter. “The PRC’s discriminatory policies in the green goods sector and in many others are a direct challenge to the global trading system and to economic and political institutions designed to foster peace and promote prosperity around the world.”
The administration has 45 days to decide whether to investigate the petition’s allegations. If the administration decides to begin such investigation, the law requires the President to seek formal consultations with China and, if a resolution cannot be agreed to in a limited period of time, the issue will be litigated at the World Trade Organization where binding trade commitments are enforced.
Brown has been a strong proponent of enforcing trade law to promote the competitiveness of American manufacturing. Brown made the following statement upon the USW filing its petition:
“If we are going to compete in the global clean energy manufacturing industry, we need strong trade enforcement. Every day we delay enforcing trade rules, China spends $51 million a day to speed past us in the race to lead the world in clean energy manufacturing, while elbowing competition out of the way through unfair subsidies and discriminatory tactics. I applaud the United Steelworkers for filing this petition, and urge the Administration to work without delay alongside workers and businesses to challenge China's trade practices at the WTO. Clean energy represents the future of manufacturing. Acting now means that we won't displace America's dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on Chinese-made clean energy technology."