Multiple opposing voices are being heard in the solar panel industry ahead of an upcoming vote on punitive tariffs that the EU plans to levy on Chinese-made photovoltaic (PV) products.
Most German PV makers oppose the anti-dumping duties and hope the EU will refrain from levying them, according to Andy London, global manager of the Heraeus Photovoltaic Business Unit.
In spite of the fact that provisionary duty rates will have little visible impact on our business, it will lead to excessive costs for the usage of solar panels, as the investment return period will be increased from six to eight years, he said.
EU member states began voting on proposed anti-dumping duties ranging from 37 to 68 percent last Friday. The provisional rates will be effective starting from June 6 if the proposal is passed.
The European Commission's plan to impose punitive duties has been opposed by EU business leaders and politicians.
When the vote was held, a symbolic funeral march was conducted in Brussels to "commemorate" more than 200,000 jobs that are expected to be lost as a result of the duties.
The event was organized by the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), a coalition of more than 580 companies in the European PV industry that represent more than 60,000 EU jobs and turnover of more than 20 billion euros (about 25.9 billion U.S. dollars).
According to a research report issued by German consulting firm Prognos, the punitive duties could lead to more than 200,000 lost jobs in Europe over three years.
Meng Xiangan, deputy director of the China Renewable Energy Society, described the duties as a form of trade protectionism, adding that China might take retaliatory measures.
Free trade, fair competition and cooperation are prerequisites for the healthy development of the global PV industry, said Fan Ruifeng, public relations director at Trina Solar Ltd.
Representatives of solar panel giants Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co, Trina Solar Ltd. and Canadian Solar Inc. held a press conference on May 23 in which they declared their opposition to the duties and called for free trade.
In a joint statement, the three said that restrictive measures will hurt China's solar industry, hinder solar application and development in Europe and have a negative impact on the EU's economy and employment.
China's PV producers won't be the only victims of the duties, according to industry insiders.
Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council of the United States, said it is highly possible that the proposal will pass and affect companies in other countries, citing U.S. anti-dumping policies targeting Chinese PV products.
Punitive tariffs struck many U.S. companies that have formed promising business relations with their Chinese partners, Broome said.
Broome added that two major projects involving Chinese investors were cancelled in Arizona due to the policies.
"China is willing to make joint efforts with the EU to maintain healthy and stable trade relations," a spokeswoman from the Chinese Mission to the EU said Wednesday, adding that trade protectionism will only weaken economic growth.