A spokesperson for the EU confirmed to pv magazine that Commission Regulation (EU) No 182/2013 has been entered into the Official Journal of the European Union today, following requests from the European solar industry.
As such, all crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules, panels, cells and wafers coming into the EU from China now have to register with the national customs authorities. Thin film photovoltaic products, among others, are excluded from registration.
While EU ProSun has applauded the move, the EU spokesperson was quick to state that registration is a purely administrative step, and bears no influence on the upcoming anti-dumping decision. In a statement released, EU trade spokesman, John Clancy added, "Registration of imports of a certain product in trade defence procedures is nothing out of the ordinary."
The European Commission must determine by June 6 whether provisional anti-dumping duties should be applied to crystalline silicon photovoltaic products. A final decision will not be made before the end of the year. However, if final duties are applied, the World Trade Organization (WTO) could backdate them to March 5.
EU ProSun, led by SolarWorld, filed both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy complaints to the EU against Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers last year. Responding to todays news, president Milan Nitzschke stated, "Dumping is the fundamental problem in the European solar market. China’s daily violations of international trade law destroy thousands of manufacturing jobs in Europe."
He added, "Tolerating this situation will allow China to create a monopoly in the solar industry, leading to disastrous effect on the European solar industry, including suppliers, equipment manufacturers and thousands of installers. This is because monopolies lead to higher, not lower, prices."
Björn Emde, spokesperson for Chinese module manufacturer Suntech told pv magazine, "Even if retroactivity has never been applied in the history of European trade cases, the added uncertainty will have a negative effect on sector in Europe. This impacts installers and resellers who account for the majority of the employment in the industry."
AFASE spokesperson Till Richter of Richter Solar agreed with Suntech that while the registration is an administrative step, it causes unnecessary industry uncertainty. He added, "This market intervention through registration is unwarranted given that imposing duties retroactively would contravene EU law, which expressly states that duties may be applied retroactively only where imports are sharply rising, which plainly they are not.
"SolarWorld and others wishing to close the EU market may benefit from creating market place uncertainty but the vast majority of us along the entire EU solar value chain oppose this illogical step."
Increased European demand
According to Innotech Solar, there is already a trend by both wholesalers and project planners to buy European modules, in order to avoid any retroactive tariffs. The German-Scandinavian manufacturer says it has seen a "significant rise in demand" for its European-made modules.
"The market is in a state of deep uncertainty, as it is importers who must pay the duties and only those who purchase European solar modules avoid this risk," stated Thomas Hillig, vice president Module Sales & Marketing at Innotech Solar.
He continued, "Chinese manufacturers have started trying to put the onus on their customers by stipulating that the transfer of ownership takes place in China. Furthermore, the threat of anti-dumping duties means these companies are no longer able to guarantee their prices for several months in advance."