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USW gets partial win in China trade case

Pittsburgh Business Times - by Anya Litvak

Date: Friday, June 10, 2011, 1:11pm EDT

One of the interesting notes during a recent visit by Chinese wind companies and government officials to Pittsburgh must have been the pairing of?Li Peng, chief of China's State Energy Bureau, and?Rob Witherell, an organizer with the United Steelworkers union.

Peng and 12 Chinese wind companies were here in late May?to talk about how they can grown in the U.S. wind market. Witherell was invited, along with a representative from the?AFL-CIObizWatch?, to talk about labor issues and talent availability in this region. (Witherell was the chief negotiator in organizing manufacturing workers at wind production facilities owned by?GamesabizWatch?, a?Spanish wind firm that came to Pennsylvania in 2005.)

Oh, to be a fly on the wall during Peng and Witherell's conversation. The two sides have been at odds since last fall when the USW?chronicled a series of Chinese government programs?that it said violated World Trade Organization rules by giving financial and other assistance to wind projects that used domestic content and/or were judged on export performance. The complaint was?taken up by U.S. Trade Representative?Ron Kirk?who, earlier this week,announced a partial resolution.

Here¡¯s a snippet from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative June 7 announcement:

¡°The United States had challenged the Special Fund for Wind Power Equipment Manufacturing (Special Fund) subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) following an investigation initiated in response to a petition filed by the United Steelworkers (USW). The subsidies took the form of grants to Chinese wind turbine manufacturers that agreed to use key parts and components made in China rather than purchasing imports. The United States estimated that the grants provided to Chinese companies since 2008 could have totaled several hundred million dollars. The size of the individual grants ranged between $6.7 million and $22.5 million. The United States is pleased that China has shut down this subsidy program. Subsidies requiring the use of local content are particularly harmful and are expressly prohibited under WTO rules. This outcome helps ensure fairness for American clean technology innovators and workers. We challenged these subsidies so that American manufacturers can produce wind turbine components here in the United States and sell them in China.¡±

Wayne Ranick, international spokesman for the USW said that while some issues have been addressed with this announcement, others, such as export financing at sub-market rates, access to raw materials, and tech transfer remain a problem.

Speaking of tech transfer, the Chinese companies that visited apparently captured Pittsburgh wind developers with a turbine design that¡¯s specific to cold weather and low wind areas ¡ª a.k.a. Pittsburgh.

¡°China is pretty advanced in the low speed turbines because in China wind is not as good as in the U.S. and land is pretty expensive,¡± said?Andrew Chen, president of USFOR Energy LLC, a company that organized the visit.

Pennsylvania, as it happens, is among the lower speed wind regions which can benefit from the technology already developed in China, he said.

Source: Pittsburgh Business Times - by Anya Litvak

Date: Friday, June 10, 2011, 1:11pm EDT