The European Commission yesterday launched an anti-dumping probe against Chinese solar panel makers, in the biggest such complaint yet filed in the bloc in terms of import value.
The investigation was opened after industry association EU Pro Sun complained that Chinese solar panels and their key components have been entering the European market at prices below market value.
“In terms of import value affected, this is the most significant anti-dumping complaint the European Commission has received so far: in 2011 [last year], China exported solar panels and their key components worth around 21 billion euros (US$26.5 billion) to the EU,” the commission said in a statement.
China is the world’s biggest solar panel maker with about 65 percent of global production. And about eight out of 10 of the Chinese panels go to the EU.
China said yesterday it “deeply regrets” a EU decision to probe claims that solar panel products were being sold by Chinese firms below cost and warned of problems potential penalties may cause.
China’s Ministry of Commerce quickly issued a statement saying: “The European Commission went ahead to initiate the anti-dumping investigation despite repeated calls by China to solve the trade dispute on photovoltaic products via consultations and cooperation.”
“China expresses deep regret about this,” the statement added.
Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang (沈丹陽) added in the statement that restricting Chinese photovoltaic battery products would harm both sides and “damage the healthy development of the global photovoltaic industry and clean energy.”
Chinese solar companies also voiced concerns over any potential tariffs the investigation might lead to as well as prospects for a trade war between the two economic heavyweights.
“The solar industry is based on a global and complex value chain, and will be therefore substantially and negatively affected by trade protectionism,” said Darren Thompson, managing director of the European arm of Yingli Green Energy (英利綠色能源).
“There would be no winners but rather immeasurable damage and regression from our fundamental goal of making solar a cost-effective energy source available to everyone,” he said in a company statement.
Yingli Green Energy said it would cooperate with the European Commission to prove that there was no basis for the imposition of punitive tariffs.
“A misguided trade war could undermine years of solar industry progress, investment and innovation,” the solar panel company added.
More than 60 percent of China’s US$35.8 billion of solar product exports went to the EU last year, according to Chinese industry figures, while the country imported US$7.5 billion worth of European solar equipment and raw materials.
EU ProSun, a group of more than 20 European solar panel makers, in July called on the European Commission to impose tariffs to punish its Chinese rivals who it suspects received Beijing’s subsidies and “dumped” goods.
The EU, in its Official Journal, said yesterday that if the investigation finds Chinese makers were dumping and caused injury to the EU solar industry, it will decide whether penalties should be imposed.
The probe would take 15 months, but Brussels can impose provisional punitive tariffs on Chinese products within nine months if there is sufficient prima facie evidence of dumping.