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Chinese Competition Cited for U.S. SolarWorld Worker Aid

Former employees of SolarWorld AG will get health and education assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor after the government concluded they lost their jobs due to unfair trade practices.

The federal government will provide “trade adjustment” aid to employees out of work as a result of a shutdown of SolarWorld’s plant in Camarillo, California, according to an April 27 notice in the Federal Register. The assistance would help many of the 186 laid-off employees, the company said.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial group, said in December that domestic solar-energy companies have been hurt by the imports. The Commerce Department suggested duties of as much as 4.73 percent, though the complaint and duties are still being adjudicated.

“How many more U.S. manufacturing jobs must the United States lose in this most promising renewable-energy industry, which Americans pioneered, before adequate remedies are put in place to offset the illegal practices of Big China Solar?” Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., said in a statement.

The Commerce Department decision only focused on wrongful trade practices. It is scheduled to decide on May 17 whether to add duties based on allegations the Chinese companies are selling the products at a loss to drive out U.S. competition.

Campaign Issue

Trade between China and the U.S. has become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. The trade deficit with China widened to $295 billion last year and U.S. leaders have called for a harder line on the Asian nation to drive down the 8.2 percent U.S. unemployment rate.

Additionally, U.S. action in the solar industry has come under fire after Solyndra LLC, which was backed by the Obama administration, went bankrupt.

SolarWorld’s U.S. unit, based in Hillsboro, Oregon, is owned by the biggest German maker of solar modules, SolarWorld AG of Bonn. The company said Sept. 2 that it was cutting almost 200 jobs at its Camarillo facility.

The trade-assistance program augments health and unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs because of overseas competition.

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