Reports: European Commission set to impose duties on Chinese solar manufacturers

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European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht is to offer support to EU ProSun’s complaint against Chinese module manufacturers by imposing trade duties on solar imports from China, according to various media reports.

According to Reuters, De Gucht believes there is clear evidence of dumping by Chinese manufacturers and is expected to be backed by “trade specialists from all EU countries” to impose levies against the accused.

“De Gucht is ready to go ahead,” said one source said to be close the decision making quoted by Reuters. “The commission has a very solid case.”

Meanwhile the Financial Times reports that De Gucht is readying punitive tariffs of more than 40%, while the Wall Street Journal has pegged the level higher, at an average of 46%. Reuters is reporting that levels will be above 30%.

A spokesman for the trade commissioner refused to confirm or deny the reports. He told PV-Tech: “The commission is not in a position to comment. Provisional measures, if any, would be announced by 5 June at the latest – that will be the moment when we can comment (the findings will be published in the EU’s Official Journal). It is our legal obligation as the spokesman's office to follow this strict procedure in order not to intentionally or unintentionally influence the market during an on-going investigation procedure.”

Responding to the reports, the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE) said in a statement that duties as low as 15% would be enough to “destroy” 85% of the EU’s PV demand.

Wouter Vermeersch, CEO of the Belgian company Cleantec Trade said: “The solar business is very price sensitive. Solar companies already had to cope with continuously decreasing feed-in tariffs in the past. If prices are artificially increased by punitive tariffs, the European solar market would simply come to a standstill with disastrous effects on green jobs”.

AFASE added that imposing provisional duties would defeat Europe’s ambitions to “build a green and high value-added economy”.

Over 450 solar companies supporting AFASE therefore welcome a solution that avoids price increases, taking into account the interests of the EU upstream and downstream solar industry. Moreover, if a negotiated solution is to be found, no provisional anti-dumping duties should be imposed as these duties will immediately put a halt to most of the PV projects in the EU and cause severe damage that no negotiation concluded after the imposition of provisional duties can ever repair, AFASE maintains.

But writing in Solar Business Focus UK, the journal of PV-Tech's sister Solar Power Portal, Milan Nitschke, president of EU ProSun countered: “EU ProSun expects a regulation to stop such harmful dumping, allowing new players from within and outside Europe to enter the market, encourage investment into new technology and equipment and give installers a real variety of products they can offer to their customers. Only then will the solar market in the UK and in Europe continue to grow rather than the current job losses due to numerous insolvencies of European solar manufacturers.”

Representatives of the Chinese government and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have made attempts to resolve this situation diplomatically, although a decision is yet to be reached on this.

If duties are to be imposed, provisional duties would come into force on 6 June 2013. EU member states will take the final decision whether to impose definitive duties in December this year.

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