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EU Backs German Plan for China Talks on Solar Spat, Merkel Says

The European Union, the 27-nation bloc locked in a trade dispute with China over solar-panel sales, backed a call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks to resolve the impasse.

The European Commission, the EU’s trade authority in Brussels, supports plans for a “political dialogue,” Merkel said today in Berlin after speaking with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso. No EU state would refuse such talks if they’re “substantial” and “open,” she said.

The EU this month threatened to impose tariffs on panels from China, saying European competitors may be victims of unfair price undercutting. Companies such as Bonn-based Solarworld AG, emboldened by similar U.S. measures against China this year, are seeking to bolster their defenses as growing Asian competition squeezes profit margins.

Chinese wind-energy and solar companies including Suntech Power Holdings Co. have grabbed market share from EU rivals that once dominated the industry. The increased competition cut panel prices by half last year, tipping at least a dozen companies into bankruptcy.

Merkel said in August she was seeking talks to prevent the opening of anti-dumping proceedings in Europe. China, in turn, called for dialogue to safeguard economic and trade ties, the Xinhua News Agency reported Sept. 15. Europe accounts for about three-quarters of the global photovoltaic market.

The U.S. has proposed anti-dumping duties ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent on Chinese solar manufacturers after the Commerce Department in May ruled they sold products below cost.

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