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US probe will 'hurt new energy cooperation'

2010-11-17 15:32

BEIJING - An investigation by the United States into China's new energy products will hurt Sino-US cooperation in the new energy field, a senior Chinese official said.

Wan Jifei, chairman of the China Chamber of International Commerce, said in a letter to Ron Kirk, the US Trade Representative, that the investigation will jeopardize cooperation between the two countries, and a petition of United Steelworkers union is full of "groundless accusations and assumptions".

His letter came after the US Trade Representative Office, under the Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, began an investigation on Oct 15 into the policies and practices of the Chinese government in green technologies.

On Sept 9, the union filed the petition to the trade representative, accusing China of steadily seizing world market share in the renewable energy industry.

The petition covered solar and wind energy products, including energy-efficient vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.

Wan said the US government should recognize the "huge potential between the US and China" in new energy. Wan's chamber is a national trade body that represents almost 70,000 Chinese companies.

He said 50 percent of China's materials to make solar cells are imported, with half of that from the US. Moreover, China imports between 60 and 70 percent of its solar cell manufacturing equipment, with a large portion from the US.

Liang Zhipeng, head of the renewable energy department of China's National Energy Administration, said that since 2009, China imported $2.7 billion of solar equipment and multicrystal silicon from the US, but exported only $700 million of solar photovoltaic products to the US.

Michael Eckhart, president of the nonprofit American Council on Renewable Energy, said that in 2000, both China and the US had two wind-turbine companies and five solar photovoltaic manufacturers.

Today, the US still has the same number of players while China has 83 wind turbine companies and 528 solar photovoltaic manufacturers, Eckhart said.

Investigations concerning China's exports have surged this year. In the first six months of this year, the US began 28 investigations worldwide, with 12 cases targeting China.

"The US government should substantially promote its new energy industry by improving the competitiveness of the US green technology enterprises," Wan said.

"I hope the US government would listen more to international companies instead of simply refusing their concerns and protecting a group of US companies."

Last year, the US initiated 23 cases worth $7.6 billion against China, about half the number launched by the Americans against other countries, statistics from the World Trade Organization showed.

Fan Jishe, a professor of American studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said the investigations by the US Trade Representative Office reflected that trade protectionism is still fairly strong.

But "trade disputes can never be resolved by investigations such as these", he said.

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