EU firms protest possible punitive duties on Chinese solar products

Updated: 2013-05-25 05:44

(Xinhua)

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BRUSSELS - A coalition of over 580 European solar companies on Friday protested in a dramatic way against looming anti-dumping duties against Chinese-made solar products.

FUNERAL MARCH SOUNDING ALARMS

A symbolic funeral march was held earlier Friday in Brussels to commemorate the more than 200,000 jobs that are expected to be lost as a result of the European Commission's proposal to impose punitive duties on solar products from China.

The demonstrators carried a white coffin and several solar panels through the European quarter of Brussels, passing the buildings of the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission.

The event was organized by the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), a coalition of over 580 companies in the European photovoltaic (PV) industry representing more than 60,000 EU jobs and a turnover of more than 20 billion euros (about 25.9 billion U.S. dollars) in the EU.

In front of the Berlaymont building where the European Commission is located, AFASE spokesperson Thorsten Preugschas slammed the Commission's proposal as wrong.

"The Commission's plans to impose tariffs of approximately 37 percent to 69 percent on solar products from China are wrong and do not take into account the interest of the EU industry," Preugschas said.

"Punitive tariffs will cost us more than 200,000 jobs," he added.

AFASE strongly requests the Commission to take into account the interests of the EU PV value chain that relies on high quality solar products from China to make solar affordable by creating local value-added and jobs, he said.

The symbolic funeral was taking place as EU member states were in a non-legally-binding voting on whether to impose provisional anti-dumping duties against imports of solar products from China.

In the anti-dumping investigation, the deadline for duties to enter into force is June 6 and member states will take the final decision whether to impose definitive duties in December this year.

VOICE OF EUROPEAN BUSINESS LEADERS

Due to its "disastrous" impacts on the businesses and jobs along the EU's PV industry value chain, the Commission's plan to impose punitive duties on Chinese solar products has been widely opposed by business leaders.

Karl Kuhlmann, chief executive officer (CEO) of S.A.G. Solarstrom AG of Germany, is one of them.

"I'm firmly convinced that an anti-dumping tariff will bring the entire European solar industry to a halt, not only us who build solar projects but also those who produce solar panels in Europe," he said in an interview.

"The other main point is that we will not achieve the CO2 goal, and we will get considerable job cuts by introducing such a tariff, " Kuhlmann added.

Echoing Kuhlmann, Simon Whelan, operations manager of Ecologics in Ireland, said, "Any introduction of tariffs will result in higher prices being extended to the end customer."

"This will end the ability of Solar PV to compete with fossil fuel generated electricity prices and effectively destroy the solar industry in Ireland in its infancy," Whelan added.

Gabriel Wondrausch, managing director of the UK-based renewable energy project developer SunGift Solar, also sounded alarm against the Commission's proposal.

"The level of the duties that could come in, anywhere from 20 to 120 percent, would have catastrophic effects on what is essentially in UK a pretty fragile market already," said Wondrausch.

GreenEnergy of Finland, a leading supplier of renewable energy in the Nordic countries, is also going to be hit by the proposed anti-dumping duties.

"We would be running out of business. End clients would refuse to pay for increased investment costs. It makes no sense at all to incorporate the anti-dumping duties," said the company's CEO Miko Huomo.

"We should concentrate on the things we are competitive at: engineering, integration, innovation, after sales," Huomo added.

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