EU Said to Plan Duties Up to 67.9% on China Solar Panels

The European Union is planning to impose tariffs of as much as 67.9 percent on solar panels from China to counter unfair pricing in the largest EU trade dispute of its kind, according to a commerce official from the bloc.

The European Commission expects to introduce the levies by June 6 to punish Chinese solar manufacturers for selling panels in the 27-nation EU below cost, a practice known as dumping, the official said yesterday on the condition of anonymity. The commission in Brussels is the EU’s trade authority.

The duties, which will affect more than 100 Chinese companies and average 47.6 percent, will be the preliminary outcome of a dumping inquiry that the commission opened in September, said the official. The probe is due to end in early December, by which time EU governments must decide whether to impose “definitive” anti-dumping duties for five years.

The dumping investigation covers 21 billion euros ($27.6 billion) of EU imports in 2011 of crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels, and cells and wafers used in them. European companies including Solarworld AG, Germany’s largest maker of the renewable-energy technology, are demanding punitive levies to counter growing competition from China following similar U.S. trade protection. Europe accounts for around more than half of the global photovoltaic market.

China Reaction

China strongly opposes any limits and will try to protect the interests of Chinese solar companies, Yao Jian, a spokesman at the nation’s Ministry of Commerce, said today at a briefing in Beijing. Dialogue is needed to resolve the dispute, Yao said.

Chinese solar companies fell, led by Solargiga Energy Holdings Ltd. and GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd. Solargiga dipped 1.2 percent to HK$0.43 at 11:51 a.m. local time in Hong Kong trading after earlier declining as much as 5.8 percent, the most intraday since April 11. GCL-Poly, the biggest maker of polysilicon used in solar panels, dropped as much as 3.7 percent.

The EU is also threatening to impose a separate set of duties on Chinese solar panels to counter alleged subsidies. That’s the focus of a second investigation in which the deadline for introducing any provisional anti-subsidy duties is Aug. 8 and for any definitive anti-subsidy measures is early December.

Chinese companies have gained more than 80 percent of the market in Europe for solar goods compared with almost zero in 2004, EU ProSun, a group that represents European producers including Solarworld, said in September when the commission opened the dumping investigation. EU ProSun requested the dumping and subsidy inquiries.

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