Back Off On China Solar Duties, Germany Urges EU

Germany’s solar manufacturing sector has been hit hard by cheap Chinese products but that doesn’t mean all of Germany is going to sit by quietly as the European Union moves toward import duties of the sort the U.S. has already imposed.

Quite the contrary, actually: “It’s a grave mistake,” is the clear-cut assessment of punitive duties from Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, according to reports out of Germany.

image via SolarWorld AG

image via SolarWorld AG

The irony here is that it was a German company – SolarWorld AG – that really brought the fight to punish the Chinese industry, leading a coalition called EU Pro Sun.

But Germany’s economy, the most powerful in recession-wracked Europe, is built on exports and China is a big and ever-growing destination for many of its products. So any talk of erecting trade barriers makes a lot of people in Germany nervous. Ulrich Grillo, head of the powerful Federation of German Industry, known as BDI, said over the weekend that duties would “hurt both sides.”

As in the United States, importers and installers, who have benefited from the price pressure Chinese products have exerted on the market, also are not keen to see anything happen that might slow the growth of solar.

Critics of punitive duties, which would average about 47 percent on the Chinese products, are urging a negotiated settlement, but time could be running out on that: In early May, the European Commission backed EU trade chief Karel De Guchego’s plan to slap duties on the Chinese as soon as June 6.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.