European trade commissioner, Karel de Gucht, has announced that the European Commission will impose solar duties on Chinese-manufactured solar products.
As of 6 June 2013, a tariff rate of 11.8% will be introduced. On 6 August 2013, the rate will return to the levels originally proposed by the EC with an average of 46.7%.
Announcing the news, De Gucht said that the proposed tariffs were “designed to prevent the situation turning fatal”.
When asked why the commission proceeded with the imposition of duties despite 18 out of 27 member states opposing the plans, De Gucht said Europe must not lose sight of the fact that the commission found evidence that China had been dumping solar products into the EU at below-cost. He said: “The answer is simple – yes – Chinese solar companies are dumping solar products in Europe.”
De Gucht continued: “The actual price would be 88% higher than the current price Chinese solar panels are being sold for in the EU [if China wasn’t dumping]. Our action is about ensuring fair competition in respect to international trade rules.”
However, the trade commissioner is adamant that “today’s action opens the door to negotiate an amicable solution” with China. De Gucht stressed on numerous occasions that Europe’s preferred solution would be a negotiated settlement.
When asked about the significance of the 11.8% tariff level from June 6, De Guch responded that industry should not “read too much into it” as it was just a quarter of 47%.
The minister for energy and climate change, Greg Barker, who travelled to Brussels to directly lobby the EC over the imposition of duties, took to Twitter to vent his frustration:
Responding to the news, Paul Barwell CEO of the Solar Trade Association, said: “Any form of duties is not good news. Allowing the industry a two-month reprieve at 11% duties, without catches, might allow the industry some breathing space. However, European delivery lead times are up to ten weeks, and will also be subject to the availability of stock.”
Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource, added: “We feel that any duty levied by Europe on Chinese solar panels will have a hugely detrimental effect on the industry as a whole, most significantly in areas such as the UK where the industry is working hard to move from cottage industry to fully fledged business sector.
"While we welcome the slight short term reduction in these threats, we believe it is essential that the whole affair gets resolved quickly which will then allow us to move on with the huge task in hand of helping deliver the UK and Europe’s far reaching targets for renewable energy generation.”