WASHINGTON – The U.S. on Tuesday called for China to disclose all its government subsidy programs as Beijing backed down in a trade dispute between the world's two leading economies over clean energy technology.
Washington filed a case with the World Trade Organization in December over grants provided by the Chinese government to wind turbine manufacturers that used key components made in China rather than purchasing imports.
The U.S. estimates that the grants provided since 2008 could have totaled several hundred million dollars.
There was no immediate comment from China from the statement issued Tuesday by Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who said it was an outcome that would ensure fairness for U.S. clean energy innovators and workers.
It is the third successful WTO challenge that the United States has brought against Chinese government subsidies, the statement said.
Trade disputes continue to inject tension into the improving relationship between the two superpowers. They are at odds over a range of commercial issues, from government-funded procurement that favors local companies to China's currency regime. The U.S. says the yuan is undervalued against the dollar, giving an unfair advantage to Chinese exporters.
Kirk said that China was failing to disclose its subsidies programs as required under WTO rules.
"This lack of transparency hinders the efforts of WTO members to collectively ensure that each government is playing by the rules. The United States would prefer not to resort to WTO challenges but we will do so to hold China accountable and to enforce the rules on illegal subsidies," he said.
The Obama administration submitted the wind turbine case in response to a petition from the United Steelworkers union which alleged that Chinese businesses are able to sell wind and solar equipment at a cheaper price than their international competitors because of the subsidies. U.S. lawmakers had also urged the administration to take action.
Union president Leo Gerard on Tuesday welcomed the resolution of the case, but said continued action was needed to ensure that "China's protectionist and predatory practices in the clean tech energy sector are eliminated."
Both the U.S. and China regard clean energy as a growth sector with large export potential because of high oil prices and concern over limited global supplies of fossil fuels.
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