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A Level Playing Field Are Chinas Aggressive Clean Tech Policies Undermining Us Wind Growth

One of the major selling points of wind power is that it is, by definition, clean. While that may be so, the international political climate surrounding clean technologies is gradually becoming far from clean. At the center of the debate now are the Chinese and the allegedly unfair subsidies the country’s administration gives to its clean-technology sector. The Obama Administration recently said it would launch an official investigation into Beijing’s isolationist policies, raising the temperature of what could become a clean-tech trade war….
In a recent statement, US Trade representative Ron Kirk said: “The United Steelworkers Union (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 US. 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.”
He went on: “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 World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement, we will vigorously pursue the enforcement of our rights through WTO litigation.”
In his own statement, USW President Leo Gerard said: “By accepting the petition, the steelworkers filed against China’s predatory and protectionist policies, it sends the message that America is not going to stand by while our jobs get outsourced.”
However, the Chinese authorities remained adamant that no transgressions had been committed. “China and the US have pushed development of wind, solar and clean-energy technologies, offering tax breaks and government aid to spur projects. That aid doesn’t violate WTO rules,” Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said recently.
“The environment-friendly green technology policies introduced by the Chinese government are for the purpose of energy protection and ensuring sustainable development, which are in conformity with WTO rules,” Wang said in an e-mail correspondence.
The USW, for its part, did not mince its words and said it was pleased to see its petition accepted. It subsequently issued a statement in which it said the goal of the petition was that “the Chinese will abandon their continuing effort to steal our jobs and ignore their commitments.” Additionally, US legislators reportedly had been lining up behind the USW to support the petition, with more than 185 members of the House and 44 senators signing letters urging acceptance of the petition. The Chinese authorities meanwhile branded the charge from the USW “groundless and irresponsible”.
So what exactly are the Chinese allegedly doing wrong? The USW is claiming that China has violated its obligations under the WTO by offering subsidies to domestic manufacturers of wind and solar products, batteries and energy-efficiency vehicles, to the tune of hundreds of billions of US dollars. That support has helped Chinese manufacturers take a lead in the developing clean-tech market, it claims and this in turn is leaving American start-up businesses – none of which has enjoyed anything like the same amount of subsidy – trailing far behind in their wake.

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