EU ProSun, the body campaigning for trade duties on Chinese solar products, has alleged that China blackmailed EU member states ahead of a key vote on the proposed tariffs.

An EU council vote last month revealed that 18 member states were opposed to the commission’s plans to impose duties.

However, Milan Nitzschke, EU ProSun President, has accused China of blackmailing countries into voting against the commission’s proposals.

Speaking at the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group seminar at the House of Commons on the impact of the EU China trade war, Nitzschke said of the vote: “All of those member states knew that it [the EU member vote] was a non-binding vote, which means that the commission would introduce tariffs if they voted no or yes.”

He continued “On the other hand, a lot of them have been simply blackmailed. China just sent their ambassadors to trade ministries and said: ‘We will cut our investment in your country if you don’t vote no.’ So this is simple blackmail.”

Nitzschke’s comments build on those of the trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, who previously said that he was “aware of the pressure being exerted by China on a number of EU member states which explains why they [the member states] are positioning themselves as they are in their advisory positions towards the European Commission”.

Responding to the allegations of blackmail, Paulette Vander Schueren, lawyer for the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), which opposes tariffs against China, said: “I think it is belittling EU member states to say that they have been blackmailed by the Chinese.”

Vander Schueren proposed that the scale of representation by the downstream solar sector persuaded member states to vote against the proposals. “There have been a number of trade associations and downstream businesses that have been quite explicit in saying ‘this is going to affect us’,” she said.

When asked to defend the veracity of his statements, Nitzschke said he had been told by members of the anti-dumping committee that member states were visited by Chinese investors, after which countries changed their opinion. “So it’s not because so many letters have been written to those ministries, it is just because China has itself intervened,” Nitzschke said.

Nitzschke added: “There is a second level of lobbying going on right now by the Chinese-owned companies in Europe – nothing to do with solar – who are just lobbying.”

Earlier this month, European trade commissioner Karel de Gucht 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% unless a negotiated settlement can be reached between the EU and China.