Fighting against Climate Change and for Fair Trade: Finding the EU’s Interest in the Solar Panels Dispute with China
China-EU Law Journal. Mar 2018 [Link]
The dispute between the EU and China regarding the trade in solar panels has been commonly explained in terms of power politics, whereby a mercantile China exploited European internal divisions to its advantage. But the trade defence case was also criticized for running against European climate policy goals. To which extent does this case illustrate a normative conflict between trade and the environment? The article replaces the dispute in the context of the trade defence procedures, according to which the EU had to decide, first, whether China’s subsidization of its PV industry was illegal, and second, whether Europe’s climate policies warranted against imposing trade defence duties. It finds that, in this case, the familiar competition between divergent European industrial interests was made worse by an important normative cleavage amongst European decision-makers, regarding the appropriate way to achieve global climate change policy goals. Simply applying the law did not settle the dispute. Instead, it plastered a political compromise emerged from a shift in the political narrative of the dispute, from emphasizing competition to emphasizing interdependence, pushing the Commission into a political compromise with China.
This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.