SolarWorld group slams China 'tricks'

Chinese solar equipment-makers are guilty of “massive violations” of a minimum-price trade deal between the EU and Beijing, which should now be reviewed, claimed a lobbying group led by Germany’s SolarWorld.

Confirming misgivings flagged-up to Recharge earlier this week by SolarWorld CEO Frank Asbeck, the EU ProSun group has sent a dossier of 1,000 “suspected trade violations” to the European Commission (EC).

The violations allegedly relate to a deal hammered out last year that allows Chinese PV imports into the EU on a quota basis and above a minimum price of €0.56 ($0.76) per watt.

But in an extraordinarily strongly-worded statement, EU ProSun president Milan Nitzschke said: "EU trade rules are being systematically violated by Chinese manufacturers.

“Not one Chinese manufacturer seems to follow the agreed minimum prices for imports into the EU.”

Nitzschke, who is also a senior SolarWorld executive, added: "Chinese manufacturers never cease to trick, deceive and circumvent their own undertaking and EU rules.

"Chinese tricks range from kickback payments camouflaged as ‘marketing grants’, to false product shipments massively under-declaring the quantities actually imported into the EU.

“It is like a Chinese fish market. Anyone who thinks the price is not low enough simply gets another crate of solar modules for free," claimed Nitzschke.

EU ProSun, which claims to represent the EU manufacturing sector, wants the EC to rigorously enforce the duties applicable if trade violations are found – and consider criminal prosecution. It also talks of "shady middle-men" being used by "the majority" of Chinese companies.

The EC has not yet issued a statement on the ProSun dossier.

The seriousness and tone of the allegations ramps up what has turned into an increasingly bitter, global business, regulatory and public relations war between SolarWorld and the Chinese PV sector.

Earlier this week Asbeck welcomed the tightening of “loopholes” in trade sanctions by the US authorities – measures which his company took the lead in fighting for.

He told Recharge that would help restore normal competition in the US, while highlighting his disquiet at the sort of allegations flagged-up in the EU by ProSun.

The conflict between SolarWorld and China took a potentially new and sinister twist last month, when the US government named SolarWorld among six alleged victims of hacking by Chinese military hackers.