Cracking down on China’s unfair trade

The argument that “free” trade will create more jobs here in the U.S. stands in stark contrast to the facts.  Since the 2001 trade deal with China we’ve lost 6 million manufacturing jobs here at home.
The calls for “fair” trade are growing.  Our manufacturers find it almost impossible to compete with foreign manufacturers that freely pollute and pay only dollars per day to workers toiling in substandard  conditions.  These foreign manufacturers are often subsidized by their governments in violation of World Trade Organization rules. 
Former South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings wrote a great opinion editorial in 2010–“Wake up, American, or lose the trade war–that is a must read to understand the importance of fighting and winning trade wars instead of retreating as the U.S. does. 
In his State of the Union address this year President Obama called for tougher trade enforcement to give our manufacturers a more level playing field to compete.   I expressed my hope that he meant what he said and that we should support him.
This week the Obama Administration’s Department of Commerce announced that new tariffs were coming for Chinese solar panels.  The story from The Hill is below. 
Let’s hope there is more of this willingness to fight for our manufacturers to come.
The Hill
March 21, 2012
US imposes tariffs on Chinese solar imports
By Andrew Restuccia 03/20/12 03:46 PM ET
The Commerce Department said Tuesday it will impose tariffs on Chinese solar panels imported into the United States.

In a preliminary decision, the department found China is unfairly subsidizing certain solar panels. As a result, the department ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to impose tariffs of 2.90 to 4.73 percent in the form of cash deposits or bonds on Chinese solar panels imported into the United States.

The finding is a major victory for a group of U.S. solar panel manufacturers that alleges China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels and subsidizing its solar industry in a way that violates World Trade Organization rules.

The companies filed a petition with the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission last year requesting the tariffs.

“Today’s announcement affirms what U.S. manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and WTO-illegal subsidies,” said Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Helios Solar Works in Milwaukee, Wis., in a statement. Ostrenga is a member of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, which supports imposing tariffs on Chinese solar imports.

“We appreciate the Commerce Department’s hard work in bringing these subsidies to light, and we look forward to addressing all of China’s unfair trade practices in the solar industry,” he said.

The trade case has caused a rift in the solar industry, with power generators and others who have benefited from low-price panels raising concerns that the petition will drive up costs.

But Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar industry trade group, said in a statement that the tariffs will likely not have a “material impact on the U.S. market.”

SEIA, pointing to the decision, called on companies to launch “global and regional dialogues on trade and competitiveness and the role of government in encouraging development of the global solar energy industry.”

The Commerce Department said Tuesday it will make a final decision on the tariffs in June. The International Trade Commission will then need to finalize its finding that Chinese solar imports harm the U.S. solar industry before a final order can be issued. An ITC decision is expected in July.

The Commerce Department is separately weighing whether China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels. The department will make its preliminary determination on May 17.

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