A survey of European Union states shows that majority of EU members oppose a plan to impose sizable tariffs on Chinese solar panel manufacturers.
The EU trade commission is dealing with its largest issue ever. An estimated $27 billion worth of Chinese solar panels have been sold in the EU.
Germany’s SolarWorld launched a campaign to get the EU to impose tariffs to balance the market. SolarWorld and others that joined the cause argued Chinese manufacturers were selling their solar panels below cost in Europe, a practice known as dumping.
The commission plans to implement tariffs on Chinese solar imports that could average 47 percent starting June 6. The initial tariff would be temporary and the EU would be able to review and revise the policy before they become permanent in December.
Of the 27 union countries, 14 oppose the proposed tariffs including EU financial powerhouse and origin of the trade commission review – Germany.
The EU tariff comes on the heels of one recently implemented in the United States. But the U.S. tariff of 24 to 36 percent is small in comparison to the proposed EU tariffs that could top out at 60 percent for some manufacturers and that will average 47 percent.
World-wide, nearly 61 percent of all solar photovoltaic panels were made in China and Taiwan, according to a report from Ren21, a French renewable energy industry association. That was a 50 percent increase year-over-year at the same time that European-made solar panels fell to 14 percent of the total market.
In the beginning, tariffs seemed to have broad support from EU members small and large. Germany was an instigator in the trade commission review of Chinese solar panels. But sentiment has changed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she fears retaliatory action from China and would now prefer a negotiated settlement.
EU Trade Chied Karel De Gucht said he believes the survey shows the impacts of China deploying a legion of lobbyists to EU member states rather than a genuine change of heart on the subject.
“They (the Chinese) are not going to impress me by putting pressure on member states,” Reuters reported that De Gucht told the trade committee. “They can try to put pressure on member states, but they will waste their time trying to do so with me.”
Most news outlets speculate that the tariffs will go through in June, but that they will likely be rolled back before they become permanent at the end of the year.