The tariffs levied on Chinese solar products in the EU could be in place more than a year after their expiry in December this year, PV Tech has learned.

EU ProSun, the body that launched the initial complaint against Chinese imports, has confirmed that it will request a review of the existing tariffs and is confident it has sufficient evidence to compel the EU to initiate the fresh investigation. Current measures would remain in place through this process.

If the commission does agree to review the existing duties, it will have to conduct essentially a fresh investigation, with industry hearings and questionnaires. Although the review is limited to 15 months, that time frame would see the existing tariffs in place. It is not yet clear whether the price undertaking agreed between the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME) would remain in place. The original investigation was initiated in November 2012 with preliminary duties announced in June 2013. If the new investigation ran its full course, tariffs would still be in place in March 2017.

The EU published a document on Friday opening the process for review requests, rebuttals and other submissions.

“This is the starting gun,” Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun and vice president of SolarWorld told PV Tech. “A request has to be filed three months before the expiry [7 December] at the latest, the beginning of September. This is the usual procedure. It was always clear in this particular case that there would be an expiry after two years,” said Nitzschke.

Nitzschke stressed that there would be a review request within the specified time frame. Asked whether that request would come from EU ProSun he said: “I guess so.”

To initiate a review a European manufacturer or trade group representing them must prove that dumping or subsidies continue to hurt the domestic industry or that the removal of duties would lead to fresh injury.

Earlier on Monday, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) announced it would now press for the removal of tariffs on Chinese solar products in the EU.

EPIA president Oliver Schaefer told the SNEC conference in China: “EPIA is a strong supporter of free and fair trade and we would like to see trade relations between Europe and China, on solar modules and cells, return to normal undistorted, fair trade as soon as possible, when the duties and respective price undertaking expire in 2015.”

Nitzschke was scathing of EPIA’s new position.

“In the past its had been neutral but now there are no European [module] manufacturers on the EPIA board. I was the last one,” he said.

“At the last [EPIA board] election, several European manufacturers stood for a board position but none of them got more than 11% of the vote. Companies like SunPower, DuPont and Trina Solar got much higher results. European manufacturers are no longer represented inside EPIA. They have a voting rights share of about 10% so it is easy for the board to ignore them. The announcement came from the EPIA president at a speech in Shanghai which is symbolic I think.”

EPIA told PV Tech that European cell and module manufacturers hold 25% of its voting rights.