Europe solar industry should not be naïve about China, warns trade group EU ProSun

Solar trade body EU ProSun, which has for many years lobbied on behalf of the now-insolvent SolarWorld for the introduction and extension of EU solar trade duties on produce coming from China, has issued a new warning to European PV manufacturers of the threat posed by China’s state influence.

As Chinese premier Li Keqiang arrives in Brussels today for the occasion of the EU-China Summit (June 1-2), EU ProSun president Milan Nitschke said that more job losses will be felt in Europe as a result of China’s “unfair trade practices”.

“Europe must not be naïve about China,” Nitschke said. “It is a state-planned economy. Despite claiming to stand against protectionism China is doing just the opposite. Compliance with clear trade rules should be a prerequisite for any discussions.”

The EU ProSun statement sought to draw attention to China’s ‘Manufacturing in China 2025’ program, which it claims contains an explicit call for “obtaining global domination” of entire industries, including solar.

“The Chinese government has expanded the state’s influence in its economy in recent years,“ continued Nitschke. ”Even more alarming is the fact that they have strategically focused on taking over entire industry sectors. This has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the EU, for example, in the steel and solar sectors in recent years.  We will soon see other sectors affected if Europe does not insist on China’s strict compliance with international trade rules.”

EU ProSun draws a direct parallel between Chinese state influence in the solar industry, and the type of insolvency that hit SolarWorld – a German-headquartered solar firm – in recent weeks, calling the impact a “market distortion” that heaps unfair competition on to the European solar industry.

The group successfully lobbied the EU to introduce anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar companies, as well as the introduction of the Minimum Import Price (MIP). However, many European and global solar firms reject these measures, claiming that a free-market approach is the only viable model for Europe’s solar industry to follow.

At this week’s Intersolar Europe, SolarWorld was conspicuous by its absence, having declined to take its traditional booth spot at the entrance to Hall A1. During the opening conference on Tuesday, SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson reiterated his call for a solar sector that is free from all trade barriers.