Manufacturing Savvy

We're Not Going to Take it Anymore

So says the United Steelworkers.

"America's workers have already suffered too many lost jobs, closed factories and abandoned communities to sit idly by while other countries flout the rules and manipulate the system to gain a lead in the most important manufacturing sector of the future," the union said in the petition it filed on Sept. 9 with the office of United States Trade Representative.

And the union is going to fight to make sure the U.S. leads in green jobs. "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."

The USW points out that a large part of the advantage that China is experiencing in this field is due to subsidies. While China's demand for wind energy equipment rose ten-fold from 2006 to 2009, the "subsidies to Chinese producers displaced U.S. exports to China of wind turbine sets and the gears used in such turbines, which shrank by 81% and 67%, respectively."

The same is happening for Europe where U.S. manufacturers have been shut out, says the union. In 2009, Chinese exports to Europe of the towers and masts used in wind turbines were nearly 19 times higher than they had been in 2006, while U.S. exports of the same product fell by more than a third, according to the petition.

In the solar sector, Chinese exports of solar cells and panels to Europe grew eight times over from 2006 to 2009, significantly faster than the growth in European demand. U.S. imports were basically flat over the period, and they fell sharply in 2009 as Chinese subsidies caused global prices for solar cells and panels to crash. China now has 34% of Europe's import market for solar cells and panels, while the U.S. has only 3.7% import market share, according to the petition.

"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."

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

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