SolarWorld sues EU over Chinese solar-panel price agreement

6 March 2014. By Poppy Bullock.

SolarWorld has asked a European court to annul an accord that allows Chinese solar-panel producers to avoid extra EU import duties by selling in the bloc above a certain price. The German solar-panel maker says the agreed minimum price isn’t high enough to protect European industry.

Last October, the EU imposed a tariff on Chinese panels to counter unfair pricing methods known as dumping. The taxes were set at up to 64.9 percent, and averaged 47.7 percent, on Chinese solar panels and photovoltaic cells.

The European Commission and Chinese companies agreed last summer that imports could avoid the levies provided producers promised not to sell panels below 56 euro cents (76 US cents) per kilowatt hour of power produced. This included an annual cap of 7 gigawatts covering all Chinese companies that signed up to the accord, or “undertaking.”

SolarWorld says the commission breached EU trade-defense law because the undertaking doesn’t remove the harmful effects of dumping. Under EU rules, an undertaking is acceptable if “the injurious effect of the dumping is thereby eliminated.”

The undertaking doesn’t remove dumping, SolarWorld says, because the minimum price in the agreement and the price at which Chinese producers dumped their modules in Europe are the same.

The German company made a similar appeal to the EU’s General Court when the deal was still in draft form. The EU has since officially adopted the regulation allowing for the duties and the undertaking.

SolarWorld has lodged two cases at the General Court, one against the antidumping tariffs and another on duties linked to unfair government subsidies. The court challenge was lodged on Feb. 28, with case numbers T-141/14 and
T-142/14.