The European Commission has proposed extending European Union trade measures against Chinese solar equipment imports for another two years.
On Dec. 20, the commission published the findings of an expiry review initiated in December 2015. During the review, the commission re-examined the EU import duties and minimum import prices that have been applied to Chinese solar modules and cells since 2013, and now the commission recommends leaving the measures in place for two more years. EU member states must review and approve the proposed extension, and the commission must issue a final decision by early March 2017.
Both the Solar Alliance for Europe (SAFE) and SolarPower Europe have spoken out against the commission’s recommendation, with the former group calling the decision a “fatal mistake.”
“We are very disappointed and consider this result as harmful,” says Dr. Holger Krawinkel, spokesperson of SAFE, in a press release. “We cannot see why the commission ignores massive disadvantages of most companies along the solar value chain. Instead, it is building a protective wall for a handful of noteworthy European module producers.”
In July, a coalition led by SolarPower Europe sent a letter to the commission, arguing that the trade measures were having an unforeseen negative impact on the EU solar sector.
In response to the commission’s new recommendation, James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe, says in release, “This year, 36 European solar associations, representing 120,000 companies and 1.3 million jobs, as well as 407 European companies from all 28 EU member states, called on the commission to end the trade measures. The large majority of European stakeholders want to see the removal of the trade barriers. We now hope that the member states will be supportive of European solar.”
Oliver Schaefer, president of SolarPower Europe, adds, “We do not believe this is the correct approach to growing a sustainable solar sector in Europe, and we will look to the member states to redress some of the inaccuracies reported. Opening ex-officio interim reviews on the minimum import price mechanism is simply tinkering at the edges of a profound issue of European-wide importance.”
Not all solar stakeholders are disappointed with the commission’s proposal, though. EU ProSun, a group of EU manufacturers that helped lead the anti-dumping trade case against China, applauds the outcome.
“We strongly welcome the commission’s findings and proposal,” says Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, in a press release. “European manufacturers today are global leaders in the quality, longevity, efficiency and sustainability of solar cells and modules. The termination of the measures in the context of massive Chinese over-capacities and unfair trade would put the EU industry’s survival in jeopardy. Thousands of highly skilled workers would lose their jobs, and the major R&D investments in recent years would be lost.”
EU ProSun adds that it supports the commission’s initiative to start a review of the design of the measures in place.
“This could help to make the tariff rules and minimum import prices more transparent, predictable and enforcable, which would allow the commission and member states to improve monitoring and better discourage violations and circumvention,” concludes Nitzschke.