Solar industry calls for global green free trade

09. October 2012 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By:  Becky Beetz

On the back of increased trade tensions, including the AD and CVD debates currently raging in the U.S. and Europe, a number of leading industry players have joined forces to call for the establishment of free trade regulations for the cleantech industry.

Solar photovoltaic panels

The signatories are calling for free trade for green goods and services.

At this year’s Global Green Growth Forum, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, this month, the World Economic Forum’s Green Growth Action Alliance (G2A2) has issued an open letter calling for national leaders and trade organizations to establish free trade regulations for clean technologies, like solar.

In a statement released, G2A2 says the letter has come amid increased trade tensions, specifically the anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) trade investigations into imports of Chinese photovoltaic products, sparked off by two separate SolarWorld-led consortiums in the U.S. and Europe. China, in return, has threatened retaliation.

"As a result," reads the statement, "global growth of the renewable energy industry is currently facing a slowdown because of growing green trade difficulties between these major world economies, and deadlock at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)."

Positive progress on these trade restrictions is said to be underway, with unidentified leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting held last month in Vladivostok, Russia, agreeing to cap green goods and services' tariffs in the Asia-Pacific region at 5%, and establishing a specific list of green goods and services. However, G2A2 says more needs to be done to clear the way for green trade, particularly in light of other trade barriers like local content requirements.

In the Green Growth Action Alliance open letter, the signatories, which include Applied Materials, GE, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Suntech, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the SEMI PV Group, state that "negotiation is better than litigation" and ask that trade retaliation measures are not escalated.

Specifically, they pledge to work together with both governments and civil society organizations to develop global green free trade guidelines.

"We do not believe this is a 'North versus South' agenda," wrote the signatories. "Leading clean technology companies come from large emerging economies as well as industrialized countries. We all lose, and the environment loses, when we face trade barriers that prevent free movement of sustainable technologies. The global clean tech industry wants to compete on a level playing field where green tariffs and non-tariff barriers are eliminated."

They continue, "We would ask all national leaders to engage with multilateral trade organizations to liberalize trade in clean technologies, and we also ask other organizations to join this drive towards a pragmatic solution to the challenges we collectively face and the other opportunities we can collectively pursue."

In the U.S., the International Trade Commission (ITC) held a hearing on October 3, at which solar industry players presented their arguments for and against the trade case. The U.S. has already issued preliminary AD and CVD duties for Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers importing modules into the country. A final determination is scheduled for November 7.

Meanwhile, in Europe, EU ProSun, spearheaded by SolarWorld, has submitted two complaints to the European Commission (EC)  – AD and CVD, respectively. To date, the EC has announced the launch of an AD investigation.

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