European Union solar-panel producers requested a prolongation of EU tariffs against Chinese competitors, potentially rekindling what was the bloc’s biggest trade dispute of its kind.
EU ProSun, a group representing manufacturers in Europe of the renewable-energy technology, asked the European Commission to renew duties that are due to lapse on Dec. 7, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because the move has yet to be announced. The appeal, made on Thursday, covers two sets of levies imposed in December 2013 to counter alleged below-cost -- or “dumped” -- imports of solar panels from China and alleged Chinese subsidies.
The commission, the 28-nation EU’s trade authority in Brussels, must decide within the next three months whether to start so-called expiry reviews. Such a step would automatically keep the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties in place for as long as 15 more months while the commission examined whether to re-impose the measures.
The levies are tied to an EU-China agreement in late 2013 to curb European imports of Chinese solar panels after the commission concluded that they unfairly undercut producers in Europe such as Solarworld AG. The case covered EU imports valued at 21 billion euros ($23.4 billion) in 2011 and involved high-level political consultations between Europe and China.
The two-year accord set a minimum price and a volume limit on European imports from China of solar panels. Chinese manufacturers that opted to take part in the pact are spared the EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.
The deal has shown cracks during the past several months, when the commission revoked duty exemptions for several Chinese companies that it accused of having broken the terms of the price-floor arrangement. The commission has also been probing whether Chinese exporters evaded the levies by shipping solar panels to the EU via Taiwan and Malaysia and whether Chinese prices should be excluded from a benchmark that underpins the agreement.