MEPs urge European Commission to end solar trade duties

A letter co-signed by 22 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) has been sent to the European Commission today calling for the removal of harmful antidumping (AD) and anti-subsidy duties on solar panels and modules from China.

In a plea to the Commission to act in the "interest of the European Union", the letter – which includes the signatures of the Vice-Chair of the International Trade Committee and the Vice-Chair of the Energy Committee of the European Parliament – stresses that European solar consumers and the EU’s climate change objectives are being harmed by the existence of the trade duties, which levy a charge on solar components originating from China entering the EU.

The letter’s organizer, MEP Christofer Fjellner, said: "The measures through the minimum import price [MIP] removes competition in the solar sectors. As has been said in the past, when two producers meet together, they conspire against the consumer. A minority of solar producers in Europe have filed a complaint saying they are hurt by the Chinese dumping. But there is another side to that coin: 80% of jobs exist [in Europe] in the downstream sector, and the duties don’t take into account Europe’s climate targets.

"I can’t see how it could be in the EU’s interest to once again strike down on renewables."

The letter comes a couple of months ahead of a decision due by the European Commission on whether to extend or remove the duties. That decision is due in March 2017, and recent movement in the solar industry would suggest that the MIP, at least, is a busted flush, with almost all leading Chinese solar firms – those that supply the bulk of the European market – now either banished or voluntarily removed from the undertaking.

Tumbling solar costs and the growth of East Asian manufacturing hubs means that most Chinese suppliers can ship their modules to Europe more cheaply outside the MIP than within it.

And this collective trend among Chinas’s leading PV players has largely been welcomed in Europe. "The initiative of MEP Christofer Fjellner and his colleagues from the European Parliament demonstrates once again that there is strong unanimity in Europe in favor of ending trade measures on solar panels imported from Asia," said SolarPower Europe’s political communications advisor Kristina Thoring. "Companies, associations, NGOs and now MEPs have all called upon the Commission to end trade measures. Not one association, NGO, nor MEP has called for the measures to maintained."

The most vocal supporter of the trade measures remains EU ProSun, a lobby group created by German solar company SolarWorld, which first brought the trade case to the EU in 2013, arguing that Chinese dumping practices in the solar industry were harming European manufacturing.

In an EU ProSun survey of installers carried out in August, the group found that the majority of the 500 European solar installers polled backed the extension of the trade measures. The group also blamed Chinese solar companies for the vast job losses that have swept through Europe’s solar markets in recent years, most recently with the loss of 500 jobs at SolarWorld.

But despite this rhetoric, momentum appears to be with the anti-tariff camp, which has already gathered together more than 400 European solar companies and 36 national solar associations in calling for an end to the measures.

"The European Commission must act now to end the trade measures, as it is clear that the duties and MIP are the wrong tool to help the European module manufacturing sector grow," concluded Thoring.