Several news outlets, including Reuters, have reported that the European Commission has consulted with EU member states on its plans to monitor the level of Chinese photovoltaic module imports into Europe from this March.
The news comes following the submission of EU ProSuns application late last year which included calls for registration for anti-dumping duties to be applied to Chinese photovoltaic modules, in a bid to stop the product being "dumped" on the European market. The European Commission is set to make a preliminary decision on duties by this June 5 at the latest, and a final determination in December.
A spokesperson for Suntech told pv magazine that word on the street is that the registration plans were approved yesterday morning. They added that they view the information as reliable. President of EU ProSun, Milan Nitzschke further told pv magazine that while he cannot confirm the news, he welcomes the information reported. The move is an important signal from the European Union, he said, that it is willing to act.
By having imports registered, any provisional duties that are imposed can be retroactively applied to March (i.e. 90 days prior to the application of provisional duties). The aim is to stop importers bulk buying modules before any duties are applied. However, as the EU points out, "Registration does not automatically mean that the duties would be collected retroactively. The decision on the retroactivity of the duties will only be decided at the end of the investigation."
Nitzschke added that the U.S., which underwent a similar trade case last year, saw imports of Chinese modules significantly increase in advance of the announcement on the decision to apply duties a "kind of circumvention of measures," said Nitzschke. The only way to stop this influx is when duties can be retroactively applied, he said.
European Union responds
Responding to the news, EU trade spokesman John Clancy said that while the commission can confirm that a request for registration was submitted, and that as per usual practice, all Member States are consulted, details of the consultations cannot legally be divulged.
"Should the Commission decide to make the said imports subject to registration, the relevant decision will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union," he said.
He further explained, "Lets be very clear: registration of imports of a certain product in trade defence procedures is nothing out of the ordinary. It simply allows the industry concerned to mark a reference date so that there can be an option for retroactive measures if the case concludes in their favour.
"This type of registration is automatic in trade defence actions in other major trade partners whereas in Europe it has to be requested by the industry. So let’s not interpret this as suggesting anything it is simply administrative procedure."