China's government announced a trade probe Friday of whether U.S. support for renewable energy companies improperly hurts foreign suppliers, adding to tensions over an industry seen as an important source of jobs and economic growth.
The announcement comes after Washington said Nov. 9 it would investigate whether Beijing is inappropriately subsidizing its own makers of solar panels, allowing them to flood the U.S. market with low-priced products and hurt American competitors.
"The Commerce Ministry has begun an investigation into whether U.S. support policies and subsidy measures for renewable energy industries promote trade barriers," the ministry said on its website.
The ministry said it was acting on a complaint by Chinese manufacturers.
Trade tensions over renewable energy are especially sensitive at a time when the United States and other Western economies want to boost technology exports to revive economic growth and cut high unemployment.
The United States and China are the two biggest markets for solar, wind and other renewable energy technology. Both governments are promoting their own suppliers in hopes of generating higher-paid technology jobs.
China's trade probe will cover wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energy policies and include six projects in Washington, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and California, the Commerce Ministry said.
Business groups complain that Beijing appears to be trying to limit foreign access to its fast-growing renewable energy market with proposals to limit ownership or require companies to transfer technology to Chinese partners.
The U.S. commerce secretary, John Bryson, said Chinese officials told him the country is expected to invest $1.7 trillion over the next five years in renewable energy and other emerging industries.
Chinese Ministry of Commerce (in Chinese): http://www.mofcom.gov.cn