Obama urged to challenge China on clean energy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 180 U.S. lawmakers urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to fight back against what they called China’s “unfair” tactics to dominate global production of clean energy technology.

President Barack Obama attends a DNC Rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

“Through a variety of predatory trade practices, China’s industrial policy seeks to give its manufacturers an unfair advantage in the green technology revolution and to capture this emerging sector,” the group of mostly Democrats and at least two Republican lawmakers said in a letter.

“If left unchecked, these practices will achieve their intended effect, which is to drive American manufacturers from this critical emerging sector,” they said.

The letter came on the eve of vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to give the White House a new tool to protect U.S. companies from China’s currency practices, which many lawmakers also believe are unfair.

China’s clean energy “practices, combined with Chinese currency policy and other predatory practices, are already taking a heavy toll on the U.S. green economy and U.S. trade balances,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin said in a separate statement.

The group urged the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to accept a “Section 301” petition filed earlier this month by the United Steelworkers union asking for an investigation of “illegal” Chinese activities to spur development of the world’s leading clean energy technologies within its borders.

Those technologies include wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy equipment.

USTR has until October 24 to accept the petition, which could lead to one or more cases at the World Trade Organization if China does not address the concerns.

The trade office recently filed a pair of new trade complaints against Beijing at the WTO.

One was against Chinese duties on a specialty steel product the United States believes are unjustified. The other accuses China of ignoring a WTO commitment to open its electronic payments market to U.S. credit and debt card firms.

The lawmakers urged USTR to act quickly to end any unfair trade practices it finds in China’s clean energy sector.

They also called for Obama to redirect resources within the federal government to focus more time and energy on ensuring that China lives up to the trade commitments it made when it joined the WTO in 2001.

Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Todd Eastham