The European Commission has announced preliminary duties of 11.8% will be applied to Chinese solar manufacturers’ modules and cells from 6 June, a lower rate than initially expected.
In a press conference today, European trade commissioner, Karel de Gucht, said duties would be phased in to allow for a negotiated solution.
The commission will increase duties to an average of 47% on 6 August if a diplomatic resolution is not reached between Chinese and European ministers.
After this time duties will range from 37.2 to 67.9%, with the lower tariffs being applied to Chinese companies that have cooperated with the investigation in August. It is unclear at this stage which companies will receive the higher or lower tariffs.
De Gucht said the staggered approach was not due to pressure from EU member states, 18 of which have opposed duties, but rather down to the fact that if the commission had imposed 47% immediately it would “disrupt the market”. De Gucht said it would allow for a “smooth transition” for markets and was a procedure that had been used before.
“The ball is now in China’s court,” said the Commissioner.
De Gucht said negotiations were already taking place with China, however, but said, “I would not say we’re close to an agreement.”
Despite de Gucht’s repeated claims that today’s actions have opened the door to negotiate an amicable solution, the Association for Affordable Solar Energy said “any level of tariffs will seriously damage the European solar industry” and the time frame available is not long enough to reach a decision.
“The decision to impose duties was taken despite warnings from hundreds of European solar companies, 15 European photovoltaic associations, various trade associations such as the Federation of German Industry (BDI) and the German Federation of Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA), the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) as well as many experts. All have spoken out publicly against duties, arguing that these will harm not only the European solar industry, but the European economy as a whole,” said the AFASE statement.
Thorsten Preugschas, CEO of German Soventix and Chairman of AFASE said: “We need to be clear about one thing: the current market development leaves no room for price increases. Therefore already duties as low as 11% will put a halt to most of the PV projects in the EU and cause severe damage to the European solar value chain.”
“No doubt the coal, oil, nuclear and gas lobbies will be cracking open the champagne as the commission is failing to tackle their continued and detrimental impact on nature and society as well as ignoring sky-rocketing fossil fuel subsidies,” said Stephan Singer, director of Global Energy Policy at the WWF. “Destroying new clean commercial activities and engaging in a trade war with China on clean energy technology is the last thing we need right now.”
Contrary to this opposition from member states, solar companies and lobby groups, De Gucht believes the duties are act as “oxygen” to an industry suffering at the hands of Chinese dumping.
Member states will take the final decision whether to impose definitive duties in December 2013.
Yingli Green Energy
Liansheng Miao, chairman and chief executive officer: "We notice with regret that the European Commission insists on imposing preliminary anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar products despite massive opposition from EU member states. Punitive tariffs - no matter at what level - will inevitably lead to higher prices for solar products causing at least the stagnation of the solar industry in Europe."
Darren Thompson, managing director: “A negotiated settlement will help to alleviate the current market uncertainty, ensuring European consumers' access to affordable green energy and at the same time sustaining local jobs.”
Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun: "Today is the first high point after three years of Chinese dumping which caused thousands of Europeans to lose their jobs, and 60 European factory closures of which 30 were in Germany alone.
"Chinese-backed lobby groups’ arguments are absurd and insult Europe’s real technological capabilities. To say that a shift toward solar energy is only possible with dumped goods is tantamount to saying sports performance is only possible with doping. Dumping is fraud, and dumping destroys competition and markets. With a market share of over 80 percent today China is already far too close to a monopoly.
"In the coming two months, China has to make substantial offers, including the cessation of destructive dumping permanently. Otherwise, higher tariffs will apply automatically.”
Regarding the duty level, Nitzschke said: "Such a low duty means that China gets off lightly.”
European Photovoltaic Industry Association
As the voice of the global solar photovoltaic industry in Europe, EPIA has maintained a neutral position in this case (and in other pending trade cases affecting the sector). This decision to impose provisional duties intervenes in a context of shifting market dynamics and production overcapacity, which led to an intense global competition. The fast price decrease observed over the last two years has resulted in negative margins over almost the entire value chain of the solar PV industry and put many of its players in severe financial difficulties.
EPIA therefore encourages all governmental and industry players to ensure fair competition respecting WTO rules and to engage at an early stage in discussions so as to avoid trade conflicts in the future and collaborate on a global scale.
Our organisation is ready to work with policy-makers and all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure a strong industrial base in Europe. This will require a comprehensive strategy based on, among other things, a continued effort in R&D, a stable regulatory framework, easy access to capital both for project and industry financing and a mid-term certainty for investors based on binding targets for renewable energies in Europe for 2030.
Jodie Roussell, director of public affairs, Europe, for module manufacturer Trina Solar, questioned the Commission’s definition of dumping claiming it does not comply with the “street definition” and therefore incorrectly labelling companies as dumping.
She told PV-Tech: “Street definition of dumping is selling products below cost and Trina Solar has not done this.”
Roussell said that due to China’s status as a non market economy, the Commission compared module sales prices with that of market economies exporting to Europe in order to deduce whether or not China was dumping, rather than investigating China itself.
She told PV-Tech: “Street definition of dumping is selling products below cost and Trina Solar has not done this. The Commission however takes a very different definition which is essentially if the EU sales price is lower than the Chinese sales price dumping has taken place, but in this case China isn’t considered a market economy by the EU so the Commission compared sales prices of companies that were exporting to the EU [from] another country – an analogue country – and with that comparison they judged that we’re dumping.”
In respect of the duties, Roussell said: “We don’t think that imposing import tariffs is a good idea and it will irreversibly damage the industry.
“We at Trina welcome any opportunity for constructive dialogue and certainly support the Commission and China having a productive dialogue. He [de Gucht] indicated that both sides have talked about their willingness to have a conversation – I think now the opportunity is at hand and certainly an amicable solution is in the interest of the global solar industry and global solar consumers – we can’t forget the interest of consumers that want to buy solar and only in the past two years have been able to afford to buy solar.
“I think we all want to see fair play in the market today and I certainly hope that the Commission and the Chinese government will have a very productive dialogue.”
Nick Boyle, CEO, said: “We feel that any duty levied by Europe on Chinese solar panels will have a hugely detrimental effect on the industry as a whole, most significantly in areas such as the UK where the industry is working hard to move from cottage industry to fully fledged business sector. While we welcome the slight short term reduction in these threats, we believe it is essential that the whole affair gets resolved quickly which will then allow us to move on with the huge task in hand of helping deliver the UK and Europe’s far reaching targets for renewable energy generation.”
CEO Zhe Jiang: “Once again, all China-based solar companies are being viewed through the same lens. Measures meant to stifle the unfair business practices of state-owned solar giants are also impacting businesses like Upsolar that utilise flexible business models and international resources.
"By enforcing these extensive penalties, the European Commission is restricting the growth of its solar industry and limiting the opportunity to create much-needed jobs throughout Europe. However, we are confident that this market can regain its strength, and will ultimately benefit from a level playing field.”
PV-Tech will update this story with further comment and analysis as it develops.