EU Solar-Panel Industry Loses Bid to Revamp China Price Pact

European Union solar-panel makers lost a bid to exclude Chinese prices in a benchmark that underpins an agreement to curb imports from China, a blow to producers such as Solarworld AG concerned about a possible downward price spiral in Europe.

The European Commission said it closed a review into a minimum import price that is adjusted quarterly on the basis of international spot prices for solar panels including Chinese prices “as reported by the Bloomberg database.” The commission said Chinese producers, which represent almost 80 percent of the global solar market, are too important to exclude from the benchmark and no changes to it are warranted.

“The existing benchmark remains representative of the development of worldwide module prices because it includes prices submitted by Chinese respondents,” the commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm in Brussels, said on Thursday in the Official Journal. “The proportion of Chinese respondents in the existing benchmark has increased to a level better reflecting the share of Chinese producers in the world solar market.”

The probe was based on a request by European industry group EU ProSun, which said the number of Chinese companies reporting data to be included in the benchmark had “increased significantly” since early 2014 and the prices provided by these businesses “have historically been lower than prices reported by other companies,” the commission said when opening the inquiry in May last year.

Separate Investigations

The minimum import price is part of an EU-China agreement struck in late 2013 to put a brake on European imports of Chinese solar panels. The accord set a minimum price and a volume limit on European imports of the renewable-energy technology. Chinese manufacturers that opted to take part in the pact are spared EU tariffs meant to counter alleged below-cost – or “dumped” – imports and subsidies.

The trade protection, which had been due to lapse last month, remains in place because the commission is conducting separate investigations into whether to renew the measures. Those inquiries, opened on Dec. 5, can last as long as 15 months.

In a phone conversation from Bonn, Germany, on Thursday, EU ProSun President Milan Nitzschke said the decision to close the benchmark review was “regrettable” and accused the commission of an “elementary-school” mistake by letting the weight of Chinese prices in the benchmark grow significantly even though China’s worldwide market share since 2013 is largely unchanged. Nitzschke also said that keeping the review open could have had the effect of raising the EU’s minimum import price.

©2016 Bloomberg News

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