EU governments endorsed an agreement struck by their trade
chief and China in July that sets a minimum price and a volume
limit on European imports of Chinese solar panels until the end
of 2015. Participating Chinese manufacturers will be spared EU
tariffs meant to counter alleged below-cost sales, a practice
known as dumping, and subsidies.
The verdict seeks to balance demands by European producers
such as Solarworld AG (SWV) for trade protection and opposition by
China, some EU governments and European importers to levies on
the renewable-energy technology. The two-year duration of the
measures is less than half the normal five-year period for EU
anti-dumping and anti-subsidy protection.
European solar-panel manufacturers suffered “material
injury” as a result of dumping by Chinese exporters and trade-distorting government aid to them, while trade protection must
also take account “the cost for other economic operators,” the
28-nation bloc said yesterday in Brussels. The decision wraps up
two inquiries begun more than a year ago and will take effect
after being published in the EU’s Official Journal by Dec. 6.
In Europe, which accounts for about three-quarters of the
global photovoltaic market, more than two dozen manufacturers
have sought protection from creditors since 2010 and many have
shifted production to lower-cost plants in Asia.
The EU push to restrain Chinese competition jumped to the
top of the political agenda in Europe’s capitals and Beijing
this year as Chinese manufacturers and European importers warned
about price increases. The dumping and subsidy probes covered EU
imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules or panels,
and cells and wafers used in them — shipments valued at 21
billion euros ($29 billion) in 2011.
With Chinese companies such as Yingli Green Energy Holding
Co., Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Trina Solar Ltd. (TSL) controlling
80 percent of the EU solar-panel market, China’s government
threatened to retaliate by imposing punitive duties of its own
on imports from Europe of polysilicon — a material used in
solar panels — and wine.
In a further sign of the political sensitivity of the
European dumping and subsidy cases, yesterday’s EU verdict
excludes wafers from the scope of the measures.
The two-year trade protection is based on a provisional
accord negotiated on July 27 by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and China. That deal fixed a minimum price of 56 euro
cents a watt for annual imports from China of as much as 7
gigawatts and exempted Chinese companies willing to take part
from preliminary punitive EU import duties.
The pact covers more than 90 Chinese exporters that have
about 60 percent of the EU solar-panel market. Participating
producers include Yingli, Suntech, Trina, Jiangsu Aide Solar
Energy Technology Co., Delsolar (Wujiang) Ltd., ERA Solar Co.,
Jiangsu Green Power PV Co. and Konca Solar Cell Co.
After the preliminary deal reached by De Gucht four months
ago on a minimum price and volume limit, “a number of
additional exporters” in China requested to be included, the EU
The participating Chinese exporters will be exempted from
anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties being fixed definitively.
Depending on the company, the two-year definitive anti-dumping
levies range from 27.3 percent to 64.9 percent, while the anti-subsidy rates are from 3.5 percent to 11.5 percent.
The provisional anti-dumping duties, after an initial flat
rate of 11.8 percent between June 6 and Aug. 6, ranged from 37.3
percent to 67.9 percent. No provisional anti-subsidy levies were
The July agreement angered EU solar-panel producers, which
wanted the minimum import price to be higher and the volume
limit to be tighter.
EU ProSun, which represents around 40 European solar-panel
producers including Solarworld of Germany, said at the time that
the provisional accord was unacceptable and has since filed a
The group welcomed the definitive anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties while saying it is “highly critical” of the
minimum-price agreement and predicting a court victory.
“These EU solar tariffs are the first ray of hope for
European companies to re-enter the market with high-value
products,” Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, said in an
e-mailed statement. “We expect that the European Court will
finally declare the minimum-price system null and void. Then, EU
tariffs will apply to all solar imports from China.”
EU ProSun lodged the complaints against China that led to
the dumping and subsidy investigations by De Gucht’s department
in the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
“Chinese companies were selling solar panels in Europe at
far below their normal market prices and were receiving illegal
subsidies, causing significant harm to EU solar panel
producers,” the commission said in an e-mailed statement. “The
imposition of definitive measures needs to be seen in the
context of the amicable solution reached with China.”
To contact the reporter on this story:
Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Hertling at
Suntech Solar Panel Assembly