Germany Fires Live Ammo In Sino-European Trade War ... At Brussels

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

The solar-panel industry, once fattened by taxpayer subsidies and false hopes, has been in a death spiral around the world. In the US, a slew of photovoltaic standouts like Solyndra went under, taking billions of subsidies and investor capital with them. In Germany, it has been just as brutal. Even large companies are licking their wounds.

Bosch Solar Energy AG will shut down production early next year, after having burned through €2.4 billion; 3,000 jobs are at risk. Siemens is trying to shed its solar units, if it can find a buyer. Victims of Chinese companies that flooded world markets with cheap solar panels. But even Chinese companies are going bankrupt, including one of the big four, Wuxi Suntech, subsidiary of US-listed Suntech Power.

Companies in the US and Europe complained about these cheap imports, and anti-dumping proceedings were initiated. In Europe, it started last summer. And last week, reports surfaced that the European Commission was ready to act. On June 5th, if no solution materialized, the Commission would slap Chinese-made solar panels, cells, and wafers with punitive import duties of on average 47%.

It was part of the Commission’s campaign to defend the sacred European soil against cheap imports of all kinds – despite the EU’s widening trade surplus (€22.9 billion in March). It has already initiated 31 trade investigations, 18 against China alone. Last week, the Commission fired another shot, launching an investigation into anti-competitive behavior by Chinese telecom equipment makers Huawei and ZTE, China’s high-tech crown jewels. But the 47% punitive duties on solar panels were the harshest measure yet in the trade war, hitting €21 billion worth of Chinese imports.

China accused the EU of protectionism. It “would seriously harm China-Europe trade relations,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang said at a news conference. “Provoking trade friction with China” would be like “dropping a boulder on one’s own foot”; it certainly wouldn’t help Europe escape from its economic crisis, he said ominously.

Even Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who happened to be in Beijing, was drawn into the fray when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang asked him to stop the EU’s protectionist attacks.

While Samaras may not be much of a factor, Germany is. And it has been lining up the big guns. But they’re not directed at China, though German solar-panel makers suffered perhaps the most from Chinese competition. They were effectively silenced by Germany Inc., which is now furiously firing round after round – at Brussels.

On Sunday, it was German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler, who warned of a trade war with China and lambasted the European Commission for its decision to start an anti-dumping procedure against Chinese telecom equipment makers. A “grave mistake,” he called it. And punitive duties against Chinese solar makers where “the wrong instrument,” he said. “The German industry is deeply worried, and rightly so.” The Commission must do “everything” to prevent an escalation of the trade war. It “must rely on a negotiated solution and dialogue, not on threats,” he said.

Even pretexts are good, for example when Anton Börner, president of the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services (BGA), claimed to be worried about thousands of jobs in the industry of PV panel installers, which might be pushed out of existence by higher panel prices. But Germany Inc. isn’t worried about panel installers. It’s worried about exports!

Börner acknowledge that: German equipment manufacturers whose technologies are used in the production of solar panels in China would be harmed. And he was worried about a further escalation and broadening of the trade war. “Other industries must now tremble,” he said.

Ulrich Grillo, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), admonished the Commission to exhaust “all options to find a negotiated solution” before launching anti-dumping cases against China. “German industry with its high proportion of exports is dependent on open markets.”

That’s the European dilemma. With many countries mired in recession, and some sinking into depression-like conditions, the Commission wants to protect certain industries. While it can’t protect Spanish companies from German competition, it can protect them from Chinese competition. Given how much German solar-panel makers have suffered under Chinese pressure, and how many billions in subsidies and investments have gone up in smoke, the Commission might have counted on German support.

But for Germany Inc., China is one of the two big economic engines that are still pulling. Exports to the Eurozone, particularly to top trade partner France, have stalled, and the industry is looking to China for growth. Chinese money is also flowing into Germany as Chinese companies are on a shopping spree, paying top euros for 98 firms in 2012, including Putzmeister, a world brand for concrete pumps [my article on the aftermath]. Germany Inc. sees in China an escape route from the economic mayhem of the Eurozone; it sees a booming market with over twice the population of the EU. For Germany Inc., China is the future – and Europe a drag. One more treacherous rift across Europe.

And here is my interview with Voice of Russia. Read.....  ‘ECB’s Desperation Is Taking On Epic Dimensions’ 

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Sandmann's picture

The article states the EU is imposing tariffs on Chinese IMPORTS not Exports which is bizarre

Your points are well-made. The EU is run by lobby interests and at consumer expense. Utilities still make money with crackpot schemes by loading customers witrh costs. The EU is a top-down structure prone to every crazy whim with a profound affinity for corporations as institutions, and hatred of trade and business in anything other than a political sense. They are corporatists of the Kombinat variety unable to accept market dynamics.

Europe is a giant retirement home being replenished by fast-breeder unskilled labour from the Third World able to consume if funded with welfare yet these societies are built upon cheapn energy with shopping malls and delivery systems and concentrated production of food. They are completely potty

disabledvet's picture

30 percent phucking returns compounded over 4 years. "yeah, keep stacking." name your asset class even! it's the end of the world all right...for the impoverish all and we love doing it to you people.'s always a good feeling to know that people still care enough to send their very worst. behind all of you stands some guy with his garden hose. behind ARMY OF DEATH.

celticgold's picture

hey , can i get the aussie franchise on that baby?

toadold's picture

Uhmm given the lower watts from solar as you go further North, the heavier cloud cover that you can find as you go farther North, the lack of cheap efficient electrical storage. The longer nights in the winter.  Solar can't make it without taxpayer support which means another tax to drag on the economies. "The lunch isn't free cause they charge so much for the drinks."

For absolutely free I'll send you my book on a perpetually powered electric generator, only $100 dollars for shipping and handling. 

lolmao500's picture

Well maybe if western countries stopped investing in the dictatorships across the world for slave labor and put crazy big tarrifs on their products... we wouldn't be in the mess were in now??

jepicza's picture

How about this, from Spiegel Online --

Solar Subsidy Sinkhole: Re-Evaluating Germany's Blind Faith in the Sun

By Alexander Neubacher

The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country's transition to renewable energy. The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.

TheObsoleteMan's picture

Gubmint subsidies for solar energy will continue, it will just take a break. I have seen this before. back in the 1980s they were giving tax credits to anyone stupid enough to buy solar panels for their homes and businesses. Give them time again to forget how bad it was, and they will go at it again in about ten years or so. Wasting $ is what the gubmint does best {besides taking away your liberties}.

11b40's picture

Actually, it was back in the 70's when we started trying to develop a solar industry and to make solar a big part of the US energy solution, in reaction to the oil crisis the first time OPEC flexed it's muscles.  America freaked out, and the fledging solar industry was born.  

It was getting some pretty good traction, too, and the govt subsidies were helping a lot.  Those subsidies were going directly to tax payers in the form of credits for installing not just solar panels, but also higher insulation value construction and retrofitting....but just about the time that many in the business of energy effeciency were getting a good foothold, we elected Reagan, who promptly dismantled the government support.  Guess what?  The energy giants didn't like it, so it was squashed.  And guess waht else?  The "gubmit" has been HEAVILY subsidizing the Oil & Gas indutry for many decades....not to mention nuclear energy.  Without "gubmit" subsidies, there would not be a single nuclear plant.  No businessman with a brain would take on such incredible expense and potential liability, so why should the 'gubmit"?  Other than the fact that the industry bribes the political classes, I mean.

Think about it.  If we had continued full speed down the path of energy effeciency, how much further along we would be today.  Back then, it was a whole lot of small businesses who were spreading out all over the country, selling and INSTALLING energy effecient products and creating some really good jobs, too.  Think just a little more deeply about the cheapest, most abundant energy source the planet will EVER have.  If we are to survive long term, we must figure out how to harness the power of the sun.

Problem we have is the government subsidizing the wrong things instead of the rght ones.  Government is not the problem.  Government is a required evil, and the problem is the human corruption that evolves in all giant enterprises.  Not that I think much will change, but I do like to see the narrative laid out a little better.

John_Coltrane's picture

How do you plan on storing all this daytime energy?  We didn't have a storagge solution in the 1970s  and we don't have one now.  Early to bed?  The storage and load balance problem in the grid is the problem with intermittant power like solar and wind.  That's why though the upfront capital costs are high, both nuclear and hydro are cheaper than intermittant power as well as having lifetimes exceeding 60 years (no panel will last even 15 years in real world conditions due to interconnect lift off problems due to heat absorbance).   You still need just as much baseline power no matter how much intermittant power you add.  In the case of Germany and Spain they buy French excess nuclear power.  France has the lowest production costs for electricity in the world with 80% nuclear.  Only hydroelectric can beat it in price.

Omen IV's picture

its even more tragic than you indicate - at the time big oil stopped solar in its tracks  in 1980 there was NO chinese industry of any kind - the usa could have had 20 years of development to refine the panel efficiency and manufacturing techniques to lower the cost - instead the usa came in after the ground was laid by the germans and the chinese - killed the business opportunity

what is amusing about this guys "gubmit" comment - he hasnt a clue about the immense subsidies by the federal government for oil and nuclear  and probably doesnt know about the government funding of the space program and communications industry which produced the internet and micro wave technology for AT&T a government granted monopoly, so they could develop for military objectives for 80 years. UAE - Uranium Enrichment Associates was owned by the federal government - Ten. and Washington based

its amazing how effective FOX news is, in limiting peoples understanding of the world around them

Common_Cents22's picture

What is really stupid is almost nobody uses passive solar design for homes.   Placing overhangs, glass in the right places to max solar gain in winter and lessen in summer.   Pretty much all for free except a couple hours in the design phase.

GCT's picture

Hell all countries subsudize their protected industry.  Even the USA.  When China does it, they are always pointed out to be the bad guys.  I do not use Chinese panels as they are inferior to ours or Germany's.   Hell the EU protects industry in some of the EMU countries over other countries in the same EMU.  France is one of the biggest offenders by the way. What bullshit.


Stuck on Zero's picture

The only industry that the U.S. protects is the financial industry.  They've sold everything else out for GS and JPM.


rustymason's picture

A trade war over a hugely wasteful industry like solar panels? The insanity just got kicked up a notch.

RockyRacoon's picture

I reckon The Archduke better stay outta that neighborhood.  Could be costly.

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

Feb gas consumption in OECD Europe down 14 %

-6.8 % Year to date.


Have a nice day.


Czech republic - 20.4 %  !

Finland          - 24.4 %

France           - 14.5 %

Germany       - 14.1 %

Italy             -17.8 %

Germany , Italy and the UK are the biggest consumers & have equal ~ levels of nat gas consumption.

Only sov UK is keeping up consumption  at +.02 %


Spain - another medium scale user is down - 18.3 %

Netherlands (a big consumer)  -10 %


SmallerGovNow2's picture

Thanks for keep us up to snuff dork...

JustObserving's picture

Those are not recessionary but depressionary numbers.  How can gas consumption fall so much?  Was the winter so mild?

THE DORK OF CORK's picture


It was the coldest Spring on record in much of western Europe.

The last week of Feb was very cold in Ireland

Grass growth is one month behind normal.

In terms of elec generation in the UK & perhaps elsewhere - many of the gas turbines have been switched off with coal plants running 24 /7.


As I said before, the Jap nuke crisis has effected Europe to a greater degree as it is non sov with the exception of the UK.

Even the UK was forced to buy much more coal as Japan bought almost all of the Qatar LNG.

Setting off a production / energy crisis in entrepot Europe.


The Europeans refuse to understand (except for the top elite who want to destroy us) that there is no final settlement in this economic world.


Jap nat gas consumption (million cubic meters)

Y2007 : 95,955

Y2010 : 100,285

Y2011 : 112,588

Y2012 : 122,154

These are massive rises 

Between 2010 & 2012 Japan alone began eating a extra 2 thirds of total Spanish consumption.


Add in all that heavy fuel oil Japan was eating and you have a mega global  energy crisis which adds to the massive ongoing North Sea depletion story.

disabledvet's picture

well, you've seen what Wall Street has done to the USA... in the middle of a war no less...i'm sure they'll be charitable as all get up with you over there as well. "if allowed" the USA will be running huge energy surpluses shortly. electricity rates collapsed in 2008 and have never really recovered. obviously as an equity guy i'm all for the solar plays. this isn't popular but i hope the new US energy secretary puts the boot to the neck of these clowns. "hope is the enemy" as they say. don't know where all the juice for the biggest bull run in stocks since the 90's came from...but that is very supportive of moving towards a new energy paradigm. these tech guys out West are really doing amazing things....and making truly obscene amounts of money...but having fun with it too it would seem. hopefully Bernanke will light a spark on this recovery and "the warm glow" will carry over your way.

trebuchet's picture

Uhhmmmm   i read somewhere US coal producers are dumping cheap powerstation coal (cant remember what type it is called) on the market as local gas production ramps up and gets burned in US discplacing the coal there. 


So they sell it to Europe, Lat Am, and reduced Mid East gas has to find a new buyer (Japan)


buzzsaw99's picture

china doesn't want a trade war, how funny. what they mean is we are winning the trade war how dare you fight back.

Stuck on Zero's picture

At least China speaks with one voice and one strategy - the voice of the leader and the strategy of world conquest.  China divides the West by pitting one company against another in trade.  China will now tell Mercedes that they'll sell nothing more in China if the PV panels are blocked.  Mercedes will lobby to stop the penalties.  If the West doesn't stand up to mercantilism (war without bullets) they will disappear into the mists of history.


GoldenDonuts's picture

So why not say sure block our mercedes.  We will make our own solar cells along with the rest of that crap that you have been selling us for years and you (China) can deal with the long overdue civil war when you aren't able to keep the Chinese "miracle" going.

GoldenDonuts's picture

So why not say sure block our mercedes.  We will make our own solar cells along with the rest of that crap that you have been selling us for years and you (China) can deal with the long overdue civil war when you aren't able to keep the Chinese "miracle" going.

drdolittle's picture

Mitt Romney and pals need cheaper slave labor. Europe and US too uppity. Gotta outsource jobs to protect profits.

Only way as a person is to not buy China. Holy crap that's hard.

11b40's picture

Exactly.....but our political class is too corrupted by corporate/bankster cash to do anything about it, as we race toward the trash heap of history.

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

I published these figures before but they should be getting more air time in Zero Hedge land.



IEA Feb Monthly Electricity Statistics are showing brutal declines in OECD Europe.

It looks like a repeat of 2008/9 but more centered on Europe this time around the sun.

OECD Europe
Feb Elec. supplied : -7.1%
Jan Feb : – 2.7%

Both France & Germany down 9 % in Feb.
With Finland & Czech Rep down 11+ %

Portugal looks like a war zone with elec supplied down 21.3% in Feb & 15.5% Jan to Feb.
As I said before – this is the reason why gold is going down.
Europe is imploding.



Industrial & energy policy in euroland since 1980 /86 has been a disaster.

Since that time all focus has been on extreme value end production which the German Entrepot excels at.

Both Spain & Italy had a growing Nuclear industry until the Entropy engine known as EMU began in 1986.

Solar panels are some sort of sick joke at European latitudes.

You cannot have industry without basic primary production to supply energy & raw materials.

German energy density has been in constant decline for some decades now.

SmallerGovNow2's picture

"As I said before – this is the reason why gold is going down.
Europe is imploding."

how does europe imploding affect gold prices?

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

People , banks run out of cashflow as their business goes under.


Rich people in Italy (they have a shitload of gold) will sell to keep up the pretence of a rich lifestyle.


I think the gold is flowing back to London.


Maybe sometime in the future the CBs will inflate the price (when they get it back)


Remember Italy was a huge economy at one time.

It has years of wealth claims behind it , even as it implodes.

disabledvet's picture

"In other news the US Navy has bought a plot of land the size of New Jersey in Greece to do whatever in. the price was zero dollars."

Peter Pan's picture

It sounds to me that Greece should be doing a deal with China rather than Germany for a huge solar park in sunny Greece while the China cost of panels is so low. Let's see how Germany reacts to losing that deal to China.

gmrpeabody's picture

Greece needs Germany more than they need China..., until they exit the EU anyway.

The Heart's picture

Syria fires some live ammo too!

Looks like the good guys got a bad guy. The Syrian army along with Russian Spetsnaz are kicking rebel mercenary al-cia-duh arse!

Is this the beginning of the end?

falak pema's picture

hey according to "cutout" you are supposed to be "his master's voice"...

How DARE you post such anti admin propoganda; cut out now his his work "cut out"! 

I'm sure you are now going to be labelled as a govt shill doing a double take out to reinstate your contrarian image in this contrarian blog! 

Wheels within wheels, I am laffing  my head off! 

We can't tell the spooks from the Groucho Marx goofy gooks cranks.

What fun it is to be a conspiracy addict Sherlock Holmes. 

The Heart's picture

Yeah, the trained monkey that can not prove it's points or say anything positive to add to the forum is really just another attempt to stiffel the truth. No fear. It is lazier to go after the messenger, than to research or attack the creators of the truthful reports. Prolly one of those splc pukes, a joshy reevian cass sustine twat, or God only knows what it is. Could even be one of those bots it speaks to. It's vocabulary is restricted to a third graders accusation mode that only knows evil hateful persecutional drippy words of sour dead pigs butt dribbleings. Those anti-American nazi things that spew such tripe are well known amongst the crew. Good ol GW has done great reports about this kind of scumbag trash. Remember this, the truths will stand engraved in Stone. The horsecarp lies and disinfo along with the false persecutions, lies, and deceptions will wash away with the daily rains into the slimy sewage plants from which it all crawls out from.



(The heart does not like to cuss or be violent anymore. The old biker/carpenter background is hard to shake even after graduating from Hells Angel class and making it back alive.)


Meanwhile, here is more important good news to be aware of. The Syrian army is doing great at killing these evil foreign invaders of their lands. If this happened in the USA, it would be the same. The people will kill off the wicked murderous invaders. Foreign, or domestic STARTING WITH THESE SPLC AND ANTI-AMERICAN TYPES. Maybe after they kill off all these horrible mercenaries in Syria, we won't see any more of those horrendous murderous vile videos on the Internet any more.


Joe A's picture

Germany is just worried about their sales of Mercedes, Porsche, Audis and Volkswagen to China. After the home and European markets made Germany Inc. big, now they stick a big middle finger at them and produces more and more in China because: cheaper.

fajensen's picture

The germans should just lend the chinese loads of money to buy them with - it worked in protugal, greece, spain, italy, cyprus and ireland. Who cares that the money will never be paid back - only dumbass germans!?

gmrpeabody's picture

So rich Chinaman going to by Lexus instead.... Not!

dizzyfingers's picture

Oh-oh, trade wars! Always interesting...

"Tariffs, quotas and other import restrictions protect the business of the rich at the expense of high cost of living for the poor. Their intent is to deprive you of the right to choose, and to force you to buy the high-priced inferior products of politically favored companies." ~ Alan Burris

GoldenDonuts's picture

Why does anyone in the west worry about what China thinks when it comes to trade.  A huge reason for the troubles in the western developed countries are the huge trade imbalances with China.  China sells vastly more than they buy.  What threats can the seller possibly make?  Who else are they going to sell to?  Is there an untapped market on Mars that they will divert their overproduction to?  Also it seems to me that to maintain their peg on the dollar they must be printing at least as much as the FED.  So who are they to point fingers?

11b40's picture

Just what I have been saying for years.  The West is either too stupid, too cowardly, or too corrupt to tell the Chinese to go ahead....give it a shot & see what happens when your peasants revolt.


It may be a mix of all 3, but my bet is on that corruption thingy.

Common_Cents22's picture

yep, we outsmarted the Chinese, we got all their cheap goods and they got paper IOUs.   

847328_3527's picture

Rubber Bullets.....on 'Back Order'.....

williambanzai7's picture

And Samaras promised to lick Merkel's ass upon his return to the capital of Greece, Berlin.

Escapedgoat's picture

Only after Some_Are_ASS is  paraded in his newly purchased Chinese Leash to show OBEDIENCE

hardcleareye's picture

I did not need that visual....... ughhhhh  (lol)

falak pema's picture

so ... according to you Samaras = good samaritan of ass!