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Obama Administration Says It Will Investigate China’s Green Tech Trade Policies

The Obama administration announced today that it is launching an investigation into China’s green technology trade policies. The investigation is in response to a lengthy petition filed last month by the United Steelworkers.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today that he would investigate the claims made in the petition during the next 90 days.

In a statement, Kirk said:

We take the USW’s claims very seriously, and we are vigorously investigating them. In light of the large number of allegations and the extensive documentation accompanying them, I have asked my staff to utilize the 90-day period allowed by statute to thoroughly examine and verify the USW’s claims. 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.

In the 5,000-page-plus petition, the United Steelworkers allege that China is breaking World Trade Organization rules by offering manufacturers in the country unfair advantages.

Kirk’s statement summarizes the steelworkers’ petition this way:

According to the petition, these policies include export restraints, prohibited subsidies, discrimination against foreign companies and imported goods, technology transfer requirements, and domestic subsidies causing serious prejudice to U.S. interests. The petition further alleges that China’s policies have caused the annual U.S. trade deficit in green-technology goods with China to increase substantially since China joined the WTO, making China the top contributor to the U.S. global trade deficit in the sector.

In a story this week on the United States, China and green energy, I laid out the United Steelworkers’ allegations:

The United Steelworkers, in a September petition to the Obama administration, argue that China is unfairly subsidizing exports to encourage companies in the country to send their clean energy products around the world. At the same time, the union accuses China of limiting the exports of certain rare-earth minerals necessary to produce solar panels so that foreign companies will settle in the country.

Both of these charges would be violations of international trading rules, and the United Steelworkers are hoping that the Obama administration will raise the issue in front of the World Trade Organization. “I do think they will take up some of this because some of it is so obvious,” said Linda Andros, legislative counsel on trade law issues at the United Steelworkers. “They don’t have to. They have discretion. But on the merits the case is there. The blatant stuff you’ve just got to take up.”

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