European Solar Importers Defend Chinese in Anti-Dumping Case

From New York Times

Importers of inexpensive solar panels from China said on Tuesday that imposing tariffs would lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses in the European Union, the biggest export market for the Chinese equipment.

The claims by the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy, a coalition of companies that install and service panels, were aimed at stopping the European Commission from imposing penalties in the biggest trade case of its kind in terms of value.

The association presented its evidence on Monday at a hearing with the commission, which opened a case in September to determine whether the Chinese were selling solar equipment for less than the Chinese market price.

The antidumping case covers exports from China worth 21 billion euros ($28 billion) in 2011. The commission will decide by June whether to begin imposing provisional duties in the antidumping case. It began a second investigation in November into whether the Chinese government was unfairly subsidizing panel makers.

The cases have split the solar sector. European manufacturers are adamant that Chinese practices are illegal under international trade rules, and they are pushing the commission to take measures to save an important component of the clean energy industry. But installation and service companies represented by the alliance say the best way to promote clean power in Europe is to procure commodity products like panels from China and from other low-cost manufacturers.

Thorsten Preugschas, chief executive of Soventix, a German company that builds and operates solar plants worldwide, said at a news conference Tuesday that tariffs of 60 percent would lead to the loss of as many as 242,000 jobs over three years. He said Prognos, a consulting firm, had conducted the study.

Underscoring his sector’s reliance on Chinese imports, Mr. Preugschas said Soventix bought about 80 percent of panels from Chinese manufacturers last year because prices were as much as 45 percent lower than those purchased from some manufacturers in Europe.

Mr. Preugschas said that Chinese factories could sell cheaply because of their size. The difference was “economies of scale,” he said, and so the “big manufacturers have a price advantage, and it doesn’t matter where in the world they are located.”

A group of solar equipment makers, including SolarWorld, a German company that is among complainants in Europe and in a separate case in the United States, fought back Tuesday, saying that unfair practices had already meant thousands of lost jobs and 30 bankruptcies in Europe.

The study carried out by Prognos “applies mathematical trickery” to reach its estimate of how many jobs would be lost once tariffs were applied, Milan Nitzschke, the president of the group, EU ProSun, said in a statement.

Mr. Nitzschke also said that prices for consumers were stable or had even decreased in the United States and that the number of installations had grown, even after the American authorities imposed tariffs on Chinese solar products.

“Only fair competition keeps jobs in Europe and leads to a development of the solar energy in the E.U.,” Mr. Nitzschke said.

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