EU and China in yet another tech trade spat
Polysilicon complaints heighten trade tensions
Already-tense relations between Europe and China appear to have worsened after the People’s Republic announced an anti-dumping investigation into EU imports of solar-grade polysilicon.
The move was widely seen as a response to the European Union’s decision to launch a similar investigation against Chinese manufacturers in September, after complaints by European solar tech firms.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said the investigation, which was launched after complaints from domestic polysilicon producers including LDK Solar and the China Silicon Corporation, would last for a year, Taiwan’s WantChinaTimes reported.
Beijing will also be looking at allegations of dumping by US and South Korean manufacturers as part of the probe.
The state-run China Daily, citing “Chinese industry figures”, claimed that over 60 per cent of China's $35.8 billion worth of solar exports went to the EU last year, while it imported $7.5 billion worth of European solar technology and raw materials.
The process of dumping sees illegal state subsidies offered to manufacturers, allowing prices to stay artificially low. The practice has been a source of tension between the EU and China in the smartphone space too.
Back in May the EU appeared to be all set to launch an anti-dumping investigation against Shenzhen-based duo Huawei and ZTE after reports emerged that it had hard evidence against the telecoms kit makers.
While there has been little in the way of further information on that front, tensions over rare earth exports have grown significantly this year.
Back in March the EU joined Japan and the US in complaining to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about China’s continued export restrictions on the rare earths which are a vital component in a range of hi-tech kit.
The WTO has since agreed to investigate these claims. ®
What does artificial mean?
The process of dumping sees illegal state subsidies offered to manufacturers, allowing prices to stay artificially low.
Governments provide incentives and infrastructure for manufacturers to operate. This is good if it's in your country and bad if it's in another - in which case it is deemed to be artificial. Did I get that right?
No one's subsidising PV
Because the argument isn't about PV. It's about the silicon ingot/wafer.
Who in Europe?
So who's been subsidising PV in Europe?
The industry is subsidised by virtue of there being FITs for consumers. But that's industry-wide, and applies equally to imported vs EU-made polysilicon.
We know Obama poured money into some lame duck (I forget the name) in the US, thus damaging its competitors both in the US and around the world. But who in the EU?