COLUMN-WTO rules on one solar dispute, bigger lurk: Wynn

Tue May 14, 2013 8:07am EDT
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By Gerard Wynn

LONDON May 14 (Reuters) - Rejection by the world's trade body last week of preferential support for domestic solar panel makers in Canadian province Ontario brings helpful but limited guidance in a growing number of other disputes.

The case involved domestic content requirements, which block foreign companies from participating in national support programmes, and which are intended to suckle local manufacturers.

The World Trade Organisation's rejection of Canada's appeal, in a complaint brought by Japan and the European Union, should clarify similar cases, where China claims discrimination in certain EU countries and the United States has opened a dispute with India.

It does not, however, address a growing, separate set of more complicated trade complaints regarding perceived dumping (which means selling at a loss to gain market share) where China, India, the European Union and the United States are all considering or have imposed import duties.

The global industry needs similar clarity on dumping, to avoid a solar trade war where Germany's preference for an amicable resolution with China is encouraging.

Both types of dispute expose a tension in the goals of renewable energy programmes between jobs and low-cost clean power.

One aim is to boost "green jobs", where countries are keen to grab a foothold in a growing clean technology sector, which clashes with another to cut costs.   Continued...