The United Steelworkers (USW) union on September 9 filed a comprehensive trade case under Section 301 of the trade law identifying a broad array of Chinese policies and practices that threaten the future of America's alternative and renewable energy sector. The case alleges that China has utilized hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, performance requirements, preferential practices and other trade-illegal activities to advance its domination of the sector.

The USW filed the petition with the office of United States Trade Representative this morning. The 5,800-page submission identifies five major areas of protectionist and predatory practices utilized by the Chinese to develop their green sector at the expense of production and job creation here in the U.S. Under the law, the Obama Administration has 45 days from the date of filing to determine whether to accept the petition for further action. This will put the Administration's decision date on or before October 24.

"Green jobs are key to our future," said Leo W. Gerard, international president of the USW. "Right now, China is taking every possible step – many of them illegal under international trade laws – to ensure that it will control that sector. America can't afford to cede more of its manufacturing base to China.

"It's a national priority to reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies. But if all we do is exchange our dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on Chinese alternative and renewable energy production equipment, we will have traded away our nation's energy, economic and job security."

The USW points out that the Obama Administration and Congress have spent considerable time and effort on promoting green jobs as a vital component of a long-term growth strategy. From climate change legislation to training programs, there has been an emphasis on clean and green technologies. But if China's illegal actions are left unchecked, the promise of green jobs will not come to fruition. The USW is the largest industrial union in North America with workers involved in virtually every facet of production associated with alternative and renewable energy equipment, from steel to wind turbine blade-making.

"America is losing its leadership of this sector in large part because of China's plans to control this industry no matter what," said USW vice president Tom Conway. "They're breaking every rule in the book."

Last year, America found out that its tax dollars were to be used to support a wind energy project largely based on Chinese-produced equipment, such as wind turbines. "With high unemployment, less than optimal growth and rising budget deficits, America can't afford to let China cheat any longer," Conway said.

"This case draws a line in the sand," said Gerard. "The petition presents comprehensive facts and data regarding China's illegal acts under international trade rules. We can't rely on unending diplomatic niceties and non-productive photo opportunities masquerading as serious talks. We're hemorrhaging jobs, seeing our bilateral trade deficit skyrocket and jeopardizing our future."

During the next 45 days, the USW plans to continue discussions with the Administration over the contents of the petition. At the same time, the USW will seek to enlist the support of elected officials and concerned citizens to urge the Administration to accept the case, take remedial action, and help ensure a brighter future.

Gerard said: "Our message will be quite clear. Enough is enough. It's time to fight for our future."

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector.

The USW case is being filed under Section 301 of U.S. trade laws. The petition was prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Stewart and Stewart, a well-regarded law firm in the customs and international trade area.

The case addresses China's illegal activities in five key areas:

  • Restrictions on access to critical materials
  • Performance requirements for investors
  • Discrimination against foreign firms and goods
  • Prohibited export subsidies and prohibited domestic content subsidies
  • Trade distorting domestic subsidies

Copies of the petition were filed with the Office of the United States Trade Representative this morning. Both public and confidential versions of the petition were filed. The confidential version contains information on specific companies in the green technology field which will not be released publicly because of fear of retaliation by Chinese authorities and business interests. Increasingly, companies in the U.S. have chosen to not publicly identify their concerns or seek redress for problems they face in the Chinese market based on valid concerns about retribution and retaliation.

Because of the size of the petition, 5,800 pages, an executive summary of the case is available here. (http://assets.usw.org/releases/misc/section-301.pdf)