European solar sector calls for end of trade measures on Chinese products

More than 400 European companies from all EU member states sent a letter to European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Wednesday calling for an end to the trade measures on Chinese solar modules and cells in place since 2012.

“The volume of European companies opposed to the trade measures is staggering,” said Jochen Hauff, board director of industry lobby group SolarPower Europe and head of business development, energy industry and policy at BayWa r.e. renewable energy GmbH, one of the leaders of the initiative.

“Companies have signed from every EU member state, from all segments of the value chain — including steel, chemicals, engineering, developers, installers, power sales," Hauff added. "European solar SMEs and large corporations are united in the belief that these trade duties must go, and now is the time for the Commission to act and remove them through the ongoing expiry review.”

Representing European manufacturing, fellow SolarPower Europe board director Christian Westermeier, vice president of sales, marketing and application engineering at Wacker Chemie AG, said the measures had been “ruinous” for European manufacturers and led to “the loss of thousands of jobs in manufacturing.” The removal of the trade measures would stimulate growth in manufacturing throughout the solar value chain and support the process of regaining this lost European employment, he added.

Board director Sebastian Berry, head of external affairs at Solarcentury, argued that while the trade measures had been in place for a long time, they had brought only decline to the European solar sector.

“As a leading European solar company, we need the Commission to remove these measures to allow the sector to grow sustainably again," Berry said. "If Europe is serious about leading in renewables, then the solar sector must be allowed to grow again and the European Commission can support this with one easy action — removing the trade measures.”

The case represents the largest ever trade dispute between the EU and China and “seriously impacts the possibility for Europe to reach its climate objectives,” according to SolarPower Europe.

The European Commission is currently carrying out its expiry review into the trade duties placed on solar modules and cells originating in China and is expected to complete it by March 2017.