EU Prosun blasts EPIA, plans new steps in PV trade dispute

Industry lobby group EU Prosun will hold a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday to lay out its strategy in the solar PV trade dispute between the European Union and China.

The current undertaking, in which both sides had agreed on minimum import prices and import restrictions on Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers, officially expires on December 7. EU Prosun says it is seeking to prevent "unfair and destructive dumping from China" that could follow the end of the minimum price agreement. EU ProSun triggered the initial investigation by the EU Commission into alleged subsidy and dumping violations by Chinese PV manufacturers in 2012, which culminated in the undertaking.

The announcement comes amidst growing opposition to minimum prices. On Monday the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) for the first time took a clear position in the trade dispute, coming out against minimum prices and expressing support for a free solar market at the SNEC trade show in Shanghai. The association called for a "return to normal undistorted, fair trade as soon as possible."

EU ProSun President and SolarWorld Vice President Milan Nitzschke blasted the decision: "In nine out of nine international proceedings against Chinese solar manufacturers dumping and export subsidy violations against WTO regulations were found. And EPIA dares to speak about fair play and a level playing field here. It’s going to be difficult to take this association seriously,” Nitzschke told pv magazine.

EPIA has lost more than half of its members, Nitzschke said. He added that the association no longer represented the interests of the European solar industry, pointing to its management: President Oliver Schäfer comes from U.S. firm SunPower; his deputies from Enel Green Power, Phoenix Solar and Trina Solar. EPIA directors include employees from Wacker Chemie, Dupont, Total and Solarcentury. With the exception of Solarcentury and Phoenix, there are no classical photovoltaic companies from Europe represented in EPIA’s leadership, and even then, EPIA Director Murray Cameron of Phoenix Solar actually works in the United States.

"The new pro-China positioning is not surprising,” Nitzschke said. “It is embarrassing for a European association. EPIA now referring to the non-penalization of dumping as free trade is like the director of the Tour de France calling for everyone to dope in order to boost the race again," added Nitzschke.

Nitzschke also questioned EPIA’s own justification for its position, namely its goal of increasing demand in the PV sector and creating new jobs in the industry. PV demand began to decline in 2012, before the introduction of minimum import prices, Nitzschke argued.

Moreover, Europe has since been overtaken only by the Japan and the U.S., where prices for solar panels are even higher than in Europe. In addition, the U.S. currently has the toughest anti-dumping measures in the world, he stressed. Chinese manufacturers have had to pay significant anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imported its photovoltaic products since 2012, yet the market is nevertheless booming, Nitzschke added.