EU will not pursue SolarWorld’s claims of Chinese trade breaches

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The EU Trade Commission has told PV Tech that it will not be pursuing the dossier of evidence presented to it by EU ProSun and SolarWorld that purported to show breaches of the EU-China price undertaking.

The agreement set a Minimum Import Price (MIP) and annual import quota. Chinese firms that do not comply are subject to punitive duties of 47.6%.

In June, EU ProSun revealed it had given evidence to the Commission that implicated a number of China’s top modules manufacturers.

A spokeswoman for the EU trade commission told PV Tech that it was unable to use the dossier.

“We can confirm that EU ProSun has submitted information concerning alleged breaches of the undertaking in the solar panels case. However, this information is much more limited than what EU ProSun claims. These are allegations, far from sound evidence of breaches. The Commission can only act on the basis of solid evidence,” she said.

“The Commission monitors on an ongoing basis compliance with trade defence measures, price undertakings included, using multiple sources. The monitoring exercise encompasses a variety of activities, including analysis of trade flows and on-spot visits of exporters and their related importers,” she said.

“As regards the latter, we can confirm that a first round of on-spot verification visits was carried out at the premises of exporting producers in China in July. This will be followed by visits to their related importers in the EU. At this stage there are no conclusive findings. If EU industry believes to have sufficient evidence that the measures are being circumvented, they can request the opening of an anti-circumvention investigation.”

Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun and vice-president of SolarWorld addressed the option of launching an anti-circumvention investigation head-on.

“Knowing that China is using every way of circumvention, there is good reason to start an anti-circumvention case as soon as possible,” he told PV Tech without confirming that this is imminent.

“We appreciate that the EU commission is having site visits to investigate violations of the MIP agreement but given the huge number of products from China traded in the  EU far below the minimum price there is absolutely no doubt that those violations are taking place,” he added.

“There are already customs investigations going on against transshipped Chinese solar products with false labels of origin from other countries. There is a huge risk for importers to be involved in such dealings,” warned Nitzschke adding that its current system of preannounced inspections was inadequate.

“It is necessary not only for the EU to do announced verification visits but also unannounced ones. It would be stupid of Chinese companies not to clean up their books before investigators arrive at their company,” he said.

Trina Solar, LDK Solar and Jinko Solar, were among the companies EU ProSun confirmed were featured on the list.

Frank Niendorf, european director of Jinko Solar, told PV Tech the company was complying with the Commission’s investigations
“I have seen the list of evidence presented by EU ProSun. Some of the examples were extremely strange and not very well argued. For example Swiss distributers offering products below the MIP. Switzerland is not part of the EU so that is absolutely fine and legal. Some examples were absolutely in line with the price undertaking, some others were perhaps nearer the edge,” he conceded.

“Jinko and some of our peers have had the EU inspectors at our headquarters in the middle of July. There was an inspection and to my understanding at Jinko, there was nothing to find. To my understanding nothing was found at any of our peers either. They really looked in to the books which we opened up and the comments were positive.

Niendorf also stressed that the compliance obligations on many solar companies would make it difficult to conceal key information.

“We are talking about US stock listed companies that have to follow global accounting standards. Brussels has full transparency. From an accounting point of view, it would not be possible to hide such things. Some of the complaints in the EU ProSun list would have been seen immediately in such open books. I think some of the complaints are far-fetched,” he said.

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