German chancellor Angela Merkel has apparently given her backing to an extension of trade measures against Chinese solar products.
The European Commission is currently deciding whether to open a new investigation that would determine whether the existing trade duties would be extended. Current punitive tariffs and the minimum import price (MIP) and quota agreement that allows Chinese firms to avoid the duties, would remain in place for around a year while the investigation is conducted. A decision is due on 7 December.
Speaking at a Sino-German economic meeting in Hefei, Merkel said: “I think both in steel and in the solar industry, we must once again look at … the question of fair trade. Because the devil is in the details.
She added that the steel industry had demonstrated that robust environmental regulations meant some countries could not achieve prices as low as elsewhere. “Therefore, a certain market protection is of course necessary,” Merkel added. “I also hope that perhaps we can still extend the rules found in the solar sector.”
It was not clear if her backing was for the tariffs, the MIP or both.
Milan Nitzschke, vice president of SolarWorld and spokesperson for AEGIS Europe, a lobby group for the European manufacturing sector said: “Mrs Merkel is correct that Chinese dumping leads to unfair competition. Today we see the same that happened to huge parts of the solar industry happening again in the steel sector, destroying thousands of jobs.
“Dumping is a trade barrier to everybody who complies to trade law. Europeans, Americans, Japanese, Indians, nobody who respects general rules of competition and business can compete with prices not covering costs of production. Therefore the existing EU measures against distortive dumping must be continued and the support of the German Chancellor is very much appreciated by the manufacturing industry,” he added.
James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe, which wants duties removed, was unfazed by the comments.
“In spite of the quote attributed to the German Chancellor in China late last week, we believe that there is growing momentum across Europe to see the end of the MIP and duties on modules and cells from China,” he said. “This was confirmed through a meeting of 12 national solar associations with the European Commission last week, calling to end the MIP and duties as planned in December this year,” added Watson.
PV Tech understands that as many as 13 European governments are opposed to an extension but that may not translate to them actively seeking to block any extension. Without Germany’s backing, France, Italy, Belgium and Spain would have to join the existing opposition to achieve the necessary qualified majority in the European Council.