A majority of EU countries yesterday (26 January) opposed a European Commission plan to extend anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels for two years, according to EU diplomats, putting pressure on the EU executive to review its proposal.
The duties in question will not necessarily end because the 18 countries that voted against them do not represent a majority of the EU’s population, falling short of the blocking “qualified majority”.
The case will now go to an appeal committee, also including representatives from the EU’s 28 member states. The majority view could also pressure the Commission to review its proposal.
The EU governments did back a two-year extension of tariffs designed to counter trade subsidies. These tariffs are capped at 11.5%.
More than 400 companies from across the European Union, and leading environmental NGOS, have demanded the immediate end of punitive trade measures on solar panels and cells imported from China.
The European Union and China came close to a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of solar panel dumping by China. But this was averted by an agreement to allow a limited amount of tariff-free panels at a minimum €0.56 per watt.
The Commission reviewed that agreement and also import duties as high as 64.9% for those outside the agreement all of which ended in December 2015.
The EU executive said in a paper sent to EU members that ending the measures would likely lead to a continuation of Chinese subsidies for the solar sector and a significant increase in dumped imports of solar cells and modules.
Beijing on Monday (12 December) filed a dispute with the World Trade Organisation over the approach used by the European Union and the United States to calculate anti-dumping measures against Chinese exports.
It also said the measures would only have a limited effect on demand and that comparisons between the 50,000 people working in importing and installation and the 5,000 to 10,000 in manufacturing were not appropriate. Job gains in the former could be outweighed by losses in the latter, it said.
A separate document said the minimum panel price would be cut to €0.46 per watt.
EU ProSun, a group of manufacturers including Germany’s SolarWorld, had welcomed the Commission’s findings and said it was convinced an extension of anti-dumping measures would be settled within weeks.
But SolarPower Europe, which represents those in the solar industry opposed to duties, said it was pleased with the majority view and hoped the Commission would review its proposal.
The case is due to be settled by 3 March.