IPVEA calls for PV associations to unite against EU trade case

22. August 2012 | Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Trade cases | By:  Becky Beetz

The International Photovoltaic Equipment Association (IPVEA) has criticized the trade complaint filed by a SolarWorld-led consortium in the EU against Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers. In response, it has called for the industry’s associations to unite.

Europe China flags

The trade war is heating up in Europe now, with all sides offering their opinions.

Favoring a "free PV market economy", IPVEA’s managing director, Bryan Ekus, stated, "It is essential for the PV industry to foster a globally independent and competitive PV industry than to support measures that complicate the access to any of its core markets."

IPVEA has said it is looking to collaborate with the industry’s other associations which, it says, also appear to be against the trade complaint filed by EU ProSun – the members of which are still, apart from SolarWorld, anonymous – at the end of July. It plans to meet with them at the upcoming EU PVSEC show, scheduled to be held in Frankfurt from 24 to 28 September, to initiate collaboration and issue a joint industry statement.

In addition to many manufacturers like Suntech, Trina and Yingli – which will be on the receiving end of any imposed tariffs – a number of parties have spoken out against the filing. Germany-based VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment, for instance, announced on August 10 that German manufacturers of photovoltaic components, machinery and equipment for photovoltaics view the anti-dumping proceedings "with great concern".

"Of course, it is the responsibility of European politics to advocate for the competitive position of companies based in Europe. But this can only be achieved by the strengthening of free trade and the fight against protectionist trends. Protectionism harms the machinery industry," stated executive director, Hannes Hesse.

Managing director, Eric Maiser added, "The anti-dumping action whips up uncertainty in the market. Thus it delays the recovery. PV equipment makers perceive the current cost pressure in the PV industry even as an opportunity because PV manufacturers have to rely on highly efficient technology and production machines in order to operate economically on the market. This is true regardless of whether PV production takes place in Europe or the Far East."

Till Richter, managing partner of the German solar company Richter Solar further stated, "The EU largely profits from open markets and free trade. Protectionist measures create a 'lose-lose' situation on many fronts. Therefore it is imperative for all players in the global solar marketplace to work constructively together to resolve any trade dispute jointly through negotiations rather than through unilateral actions."

Remaining neutral, EPIA, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association said that it will not "pre-judge" the case. "Our message is clear: In a globally very competitive context, the European solar industry calls for a quick and fair resolution to disputes over solar trade practices. At a time when the global solar industry is weathering a period of economic uncertainty and consolidation, it will be crucial for all players in this conflict to find common ground and allow our technology to accelerate the momentum that has helped PV becoming a mainstream technology."

Squabbling

Unfortunately, squabbling in the photovoltaic industry has taken center stage. Amidst challenging conditions for the global economy as a whole, players from China, the U.S. and now Europe are ping ponging back and forth over who’s to blame for falling module prices, insolvencies and flailing financials. As if lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry and negative media reports were not enough of a challenge for a comparatively fledgling industry, which still has to prove its full capabilities in posing a serious alternative to traditional energy sources, and if consolidation – the norm for every industry, and which can take an average of 25 years, according to the Harvard Business Review – is something unique for solar.

According to CASM, the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturers, and EU ProSun, unfair subsidy support from China’s government has seen modules dumped on the global market at unrealistic and uncompetitive prices, thus leading to "layoffs and insolvencies" in both Europe and the U.S. Meanwhile, China’s government says it is the below cost polysilicon being imported into China from Europe, the U.S. and Korea, which is pushing prices down.

Following the filing of the trade complaint, the European Commission has 45 days to decide whether it will open the case or not. If it does go ahead, a preliminary judgment is expected to be made no later than 2013 and punitive tariffs could apply retroactively, as is the case in the U.S.

In the meantime, China has launched its own investigation into polysilicon imports from the U.S. and Korea, and is considering a similar action in Europe.


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