The EU is deciding whether to extend for a further two years the high duties imposed on Chinese imports of solar panels into the EU.  So far Member States have failed to reach agreement.

In December 2013, the EU imposed both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties averaging 47.7% on Chinese imports of solar modules and cells.  These duties were intended to protect EU manufacturers against Chinese products being ‘dumped’ onto the EU market at lower prices than the domestic price in China, and to counteract the effect of Chinese government subsidies granted to Chinese manufacturers.  The duties applied for a period of two years to December 2015 (though they remain in force until the current review is finalised).  

Alongside these duties the EU accepted undertakings from a number of Chinese manufacturers who agreed to charge a minimum price of €0.56/watt for Chinese solar panels sold into the EU; these manufacturers were not subject to the duties. 

There was much controversy surrounding the European Commission’s original investigation, with opponents arguing it amounted to protectionism likely to endanger the green energy agenda by increasing the cost of panels.  At one stage it looked as if it might trigger a trade war with China.

The issue has remained contentious.  The Commission has withdrawn the undertaking from several Chinese manufactures for non-compliance; these manufacturers are instead subject to the high duties.  The Commission has also extended the scope of the duties to cover solar panels imported into the EU from Taiwan and Malaysia.

The current review started in December 2015.  The Commission was considering extending the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties for a further two years.  It was also considering whether to take solar cells outside the scope of the duties, so they would apply to solar modules only.  Any decision needs the approval of Member States (by qualified majority).  Currently, Member States have approved the Commission’s proposal to extend the 11.5% anti-subsidy duties, but have not approved the proposal to extend the higher anti-dumping duties.

The case will be considered by an appeal committee with a decision expected by 5 March 2017.