China-EU trade dispute rumbles on

The European commission has begun investigating complaints that China is dumping solar panels below cost price raising concerns that trade relations will be damaged between Germany and Beijing.

The European commission will now formally investigate allegations made by European PV manufacturers of unfair exports worth over £15bn a year.

The issue is particularly sensitive for Angela Merkel’s government in Berlin due to its privileged export-based special relationship with China and the fact that the complaint has largely been led by German firms.

EU leaders are understood to be wary of angering their counterparts in Berlin as the EU remains the biggest market for all Chinese-made products and are likely to resist calls for a tariff on Chinese solar panels similar to one which has already been imposed by the US Authorities.

The commission has said it will deliver its verdict by June 2013.  

Global PV manufacturers Suntech, which has regional headquarters in China, Switzerland and the USA, has criticised the European commission for its ‘protectionist’ stance.

Executive chairman and chief strategy officer, Dr Zhengrong Shi, said: “Our industry’s mission is to make solar affordable for everyone and we are concerned that trade barriers will only delay the industry from fulfilling this.

“As a global solar company listed on the NYSE, we are well-prepared to substantiate our strict adherence to fair international trade practices. We are currently reviewing the notice of initiation, and will cooperate fully with the European Commission in its investigation.

“Protectionist measures would increase the cost of solar energy inEurope, and adversely affect European jobs in the solar industry. We stand together with majority of European and global companies in the solar industry in supporting free trade.  Until the issue is resolved, we will continue to work with our customers and partners to ensure business as usual.”