NGOs call on EU to remove trade duties against China

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It’s been another roller-coaster week in the battle over the EU trade measures against Chinese PV manufacturers, culminating in another letter, this time from a group of NGOs, calling for the removal of the duties. Addressed to the European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, the letter was signed by executives of Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, WWF, E3G, and EKOenergy, and comes just a day after 400 European companies sent a similar letter to Commissioner Malmström calling for an end to the measures.

The premise for the letter was the ratifying of the Paris Agreement by the European Union, and thus the need to dramatically reduce global carbon emissions, stating that transitioning the energy sector to renewable energy is critical for this to happen. The letter then pointed to solar, arguing that the trade measures against the Chinese solar manufacturers “are making solar power more expensive and slowing down the deployment of solar power in Europe.”

The trade measures in question are the minimum import price (MIP), and the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on Chinese PV imports. The EU adopted the trade measures in December 2013, as a means of projecting Europe’s solar industry, however, many within the industry feel that the measures are counterproductive, and are actually hindering its development.

“Instead of putting citizens at the heart of the Energy Union, the present trade measures negatively impact consumers and make their participation in the energy transition costlier,” the letter continued. “Removing the measures would help more Europeans to become active energy consumers or ‘prosumers’ – an objective that all members of the College of Commissioners should support.”

Sweetening the deal further, the NGOs pointed to the positive economic impact that removing the trade measures could have, namely the new jobs that would be created, should the industry be allowed to thrive. It drummed in the point that there needs to be consistency between the EU’s climate policy and trade policy for either to be effective.

Mounting pressure

Earlier in the week, a staggering 400 European companies signed an even more strongly worded letter to Commissioner Malmström calling for an end to the trade measures against Chinese PV companies. The letter stated that the measures had been “ruinous” for European manufacturers, had led to the loss of thousands of jobs and had stifled the entire solar sector. A group of 34 solar and renewable energy organizations, led by SolarPower Europe, had sent a similar letter in July.

“Companies have signed from every EU member state, from all segments of the value chain – including steel, chemicals, engineering, developers, installers, power sales,” said Jochen Hauff, board director of SolarPower Europe, commenting on the most recent letter from the European companies. “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.”

Maintaining defiance, on the same day the NGOs sent the letter to Commissioner Malmström, the European Commission itself announced that it is seeking to remove five Chinese PV manufacturers from its MIP agreement due to alleged violations of the undertaking. It proposes the removal of Huashun China, Seraphim China, JinkoSolar, Risen Energy, and Wuxi Suntech. They will be joining China’s other major manufacturers, including Trina Solar and JA Solar, in leaving the undertaking.

With the new letters, and the dropping out of China’s major PV players, pressure is mounting on the trade measures. It seems almost universally agreed in Europe that the measures are hurting the industry right along the value chain, which surely will spell an end to the duties, or at least an adaptation of the measures, in the not too distant future.