One investigation completed, another one launched
On March 3 2017, the EU’s DG Trade published the results of its expiry review and with that a new regulation. According to this regulation, import duties and minimum import price continue to apply to solar modules and cells from China for another 18 months. The Commission has announced that it will not launch further investigation after this period and let the measures finally expiry by September 2018.
At the same time, the Commission has launched a new Interim Review. The aim of this investigation is to reduce the administrative effort for imports of Chinese solar products and have a more transparent and flexible means of defining the MIP. The MIP is supposed to reflect the level of the global market price and be better adaptable to fluctuations. These changes are likely to apply from September 2017 onwards when this review is concluded. They will then remain in place for another year.
Prior to the Commission’s decision, an appeal process was initiated. This was necessary as the EU member states rejected the original Commission proposal. Basis for the first vote were the investigation results of the expiry review and interim review on cells presented by the EU in December 2016. The recommendation was to extend the measures by another 24 months.
SAFE is still convinced that the continuation of the trade barriers has negative effects on the European solar energy market and thwarts the expansion of environmentally friendly means of power generation. Trade barriers are the wrong strategy in a globalised economic system to even disadvantages of individual companies.
The foreseeable end of the measures as well as the reduction of the MIP level are a major step in the right direction compared to the position taken by the Commission in the process so far. SAFE will continue to actively participate in the investigation and will campaign for a fast and significant reduction of the measures.
Looking back at the expiry review
The anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures introduced in December 2013, i.e. the minimum import price and the import duties for Chinese solar modules and cells, were reexamined by the EU Commission in an Expiry Review, as explained in the Official Journal of the European Union on 5 December, 2015. At the beginning of September 2015, EU ProSun lodged the request for this review. Without this review, the measures would have expired on 7 December 2015. Without the review, the measures would have expired on December 7, 2015. They remained applicable for the duration of the investigation.
As part of the review, Chinese manufacturers, European manufacturers and European importers were surveyed and their views heard. In addition, site visits were made. Approx. 150 companies, organisations and institutions from the EU and China have registered as interested party in the investigation.
Concurrently, the Commission itself has initiated a partial interim review (Partial Interim Review). This review was intended to clarify whether the minimum import price and import duties should continue to apply to solar cells or not. The Commission concluded that cells will not be exempted from the measures.
Background: How and why were the minimum import price and import duties introduced?
The EU Commission launched two anti-competition cases against Chinese manufacturers of solar modules and core products such as wafers and cells during 2012 to 2013. In the Anti-dumping case Chinese manufacturers were accused of selling their products below manufacturing costs. As part of the Anti-subsidy case the Commission investigated whether companies received subsidies from the Chinese state that would distort competition.
During the summer of 2013, the EU, China and some of the companies concerned reached a settlement. As part of this undertaking they agreed the introduction of minimum import prices for solar modules, cells and wafers for the European market as well as a limitation of the level of annual imports. In December 2013 the final rulings for both trade defence cases were published. Since then import tariffs apply to all Chinese companies that have not signed this undertaking.
The above measures continue to apply until 7 December 2015. In accordance with the currently applicable EU standard regulation European companies concerned as well as the Commission itself can apply for a review (expiry review). This must be initiated no later than three months prior to the expiry of the measures. The Commission can decide whether to reject or accept such an application. It must make this decision no later than by 7 December.
In February 2016, the Commission terminated the anti-circumvention review that SolarWorld applied for in May 2015. The result of this review is that various Chinese module and cell producers tried to circumvent the minimum price and import tariffs through trading via third countries, namely Taiwan and Malaysia. Consequently, the measures are now also applicable to various Taiwanese and Malaysian producers.
Also in May 2015, the Commission initiated a partial interim review following an application by EU ProSun. The subject of this review is the Bloomberg price index, on the basis of which minimum price imports are determined. The procedure must be concluded by spring 2016. In January 2016, the Commission officially terminated the investigation without making changes to the applicable price index index supplied by Bloomberg New Energy Finance; thus rejecting the allegations made by the applicant.
The legal basis for all these reviews is a relevant EU Basic Regulation from 2009.
Where can I find further information?
Interested parties can inform themselves on the website of the EU Commission on the various forms of reviews as well as the development of the process since 2012.
This is where you find our timeline with the most important events since 2012.