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EU to levy fees on solar panels from China
Aggregated Source: Shanghai Daily: Business

THE European Commission agreed yesterday to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China in a move to guard against what it sees as Chinese dumping of cheap goods in Europe.

European Union commissioners backed trade chief Karel De Gucht's proposal to levy the provisional duties by June 6 and make Chinese solar exports less attractive in Europe, according to two officials.

The investigation into accusations of dumping is the biggest the commission has launched but Brussels is trying to tread a careful path, knowing it needs China, the EU's second-largest trading partner, to help the bloc pull out from recession.

China's ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Yi Xiaozhun, called the decision a mistake although he declined to comment on any possible retaliation.

"It will send the wrong message to the world that protectionism is coming," Yi said in Geneva.

Given that Germany and France are seeking to increase exports to China, De Gucht will try for a negotiated solution with new Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng before an EU deadline in December to cement the levies for up to five years.

That could mean agreeing a minimum price at which all solar panels makers selling in Europe adhere to, diplomats said.

The EU duties, which will come into effect once the commission publishes the decision in its Official Journal, will be set at an average of 47 percent, officials said.

Trade specialists from all 27 EU countries will be consulted next Wednesday at a meeting in Brussels and are expected to support the decision, although their position is non-binding.

The commission declined to comment.

Chinese solar panel production quadrupled between 2009 and 2011 to more than the entire global demand. EU producers say Chinese companies have captured more than 80 percent of the European market from almost zero a few years ago, exporting 21 billion euros (US$27 billion) to the EU in 2011.

As a result, Chinese-made solar panels are as much as 45 percent cheaper than those made in Europe, industry executives say.

Europe accounted for half of the global market in 2012, which was worth US$77 billion, according to research firm IHS.

The commission started its investigation in September, taking up a complaint by a group of mainly German and Italian companies led by SolarWorld, which was once Germany's biggest solar group but now has 900 million euros in liabilities.

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