PV trade dispute: EU ProSun files request for expiry review of undertaking


More than a dozen PV manufacturers have filed a joint request to the European Commission for an expiry review of its anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures, according to the SolarWorld-led trade association EU ProSun. The move could extend the measures beyond their Dec. 7 expiration date. If the Commission acts upon the request, the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures would continue pending the review.

According to EU ProSun, Europe's PV manufacturers still have a capacity of more than 6 GW, with recently reported growth following bankruptcies and factory closures. In order to open the expiry review procedure, the request must come from the affected sector and, in this case, be supported by at least 25% of the cell and module producers, according to EU Prosun. In addition, the side making the request must demonstrate that new dumping will occur when the measures expire. The likelihood of anti-competitive damage to the European industry must likewise exist in order for the Commission to agree to the review. EU ProSun has expressed certainty that there will indeed be damage, stressing that recent attempts by some Chinese manufacturers to circumvent the undertaking provided the best evidence.

The undertaking, which officially runs until Dec. 6, minimum import prices and import volumes are set for manufacturers of crystalline photovoltaic products from China into the EU. Since June, the Commission has banned several Chinese PV manufacturers from the minimum price accord due to a variety of violations, including Canadian Solar, ET Solar, Renesola and ZNShine. The Commission currently has cases against Chint Solar and Sunny Energy, which are similarly facing expulsion from the undertaking.

Supporters and opponents of the measures have been increasingly staking out positions in recent weeks. Some want to see the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures extended, others want the minimum price agreement to expire. The main point of contention is whether the minimum import prices are behind the current difficulties of the German and European PV markets. "The anti-dumping measures have nothing to do with it,“ says EU ProSun. "The US example shows that anti-dumping and market growth are not mutually exclusive."

In the U.S., for the first time, more PV capacity will be installed than in the EU countries this year. The reason for the weak PV market in Germany, the organization adds, is that the government has capped tender volumes for ground-mounted systems at 400 MW annually. "These tenders were previously heavily oversubscribed despite the minimum prices. Even with the Chinese dumping prices, the volume will not exceed 400 MW because its set by law."

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On the opposite side, the Solar Alliance for Europe (SAFE) is convinced that lower costs are not being passed on to consumers and investors because of the fixed minimum import prices, thus paralyzing demand. "In the next five years annual installations could double and production costs for solar modules worldwide could be cut in half again over the same period,” SAFE argues. “Europe runs the risk of being further sidelined. Here, the minimum import prices for solar modules have been in force since mid 2013. They have already prevented a cost reductions of around 20% in the production of modules that could have been passed on to customers. At the same time, declining feed-in tariffs and fees for self-consumption ensure shrinking revenues and reduce the attractiveness of solar investment."

Another point of contention between the parties is whether dumping by Chinese manufacturers has been proven at all. "The European Commission has carried out a multi-level investigation,” EU ProSun says. “In the case of solar, it examined the real production costs in the U.S., Europe, India and China.” SAFE, however, is convinced that prices in the anti-dumping investigations were only compared with those in India, which it says is unsuitable due to inflationary factors. EU Prosun points to the application of the so-called “lesser duty rule” in the definition of the minimum import price and the import tariffs: "Had the custom duties been determined solely on the basis of India, they would have amounted to about 80%. Yet they were set at around 47%. The EU subsequently introduced the minimum price based on the custom duties. The minimum price was fixed in 2013 at the exact level of the price of Chinese manufacturers such as Yingli and Trina, which corresponded to a duty of 0%."

In addition, evidence of dumping has not only been found in the EU. "Every state that has to date carried out anti-dumping investigations of Chinese solar modules (the U.S., Canada, India, Australia and the EU) has found massive price dumping. The dumping margins, i.e., the amount by which Chinese prices undercut production-based prices, lay between 30% and 100%,” EU ProSun said in a statement.

Translated by Edgar Meza

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