Trina walks away from 'unfair' EU price undertakings

Chinese PV group Trina Solar is pulling out of a deal with the EU over minimum selling prices for imported modules and cells, claiming the arrangement “unfairly” restricts its growth prospects in Europe.

Trina – the world’s biggest module supplier by volume – will continue to serve European customers from plants outside China in a bid to “regain market share under a more flexible pricing strategy”.

In a strongly-worded statement, Trina said it could no longer support the minimum import price (MIP) agreement it signed up to in 2013 after a deal between the EU and China as an alternative to anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs being imposed on Chinese imports.

The European Commission (EC) has thrown a number of Chinese manufacturers out of the MIP deal following alleged breaches, but Trina walking away of its own accord is likely to raise a question mark over the viability of the arrangement.

The EC earlier this week decided to keep the measures in force until early 2017 while it carries out a review.

That was apparently the last straw for Trina, which said keeping the trade sanctions “is contrary to the principles of free and fair trade”.

“The current interpretations of the [MIP] agreement by the EU Commission unfairly limit the company's growth potential in the European region, and are disruptive to the company's ongoing global expansion strategy.”

CEO Jifan Gao added: “We believe the current MIP does not reflect the ongoing market trends in the solar sector, particularly as average selling prices in major markets continue to decline at a faster than expected rate, with downward pressure anticipated to continue for the foreseeable future. Consequently, the Chinese companies that are party to the [MIP] have lost their competitiveness to their non-Chinese peers in selling to EU markets.”

Trina claimed its brand name, technology and strong customer base will allow it to serve Europe from its “tariff-free” manufacturing facilities outside China.

Like other Chinese PV players, Trina has been building up its non-domestic production capacity to leave it outside the remit of fair-trade measures against imports from China into the EU and the US, which also has tariffs in place.

For example, the company has a 500MW-module, 700MW-cell factory poised to open in Thailand and has been linked with production in India.