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February 9, 2017

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EU to phase out Chinese solar panel duties

THE European Union said yesterday it aimed to phase out anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panel imports after 18 months, ending a bitter dispute with one of its largest trading partners.

Stung by US President Donald Trump’s protectionist stance, the EU has touted its free trade credentials and pledged closer cooperation with China in response.

The EU imposed the duties in 2013 after European panel makers complained they were being forced out of business by Chinese imports.

Other companies which installed solar panel systems claimed the duties harmed them by increasing their costs and should be removed.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “There is no doubt we have the right to protect our industry ... but at the same time we have to take into account other companies who import these products.”

These companies, he said, provided thousands of jobs and were a key element in the renewable energy industry.

“The college (of the 28 member state representatives) weighed the options, including the different interests involved and decided to maintain the measures for 18 months and an eventual phase out,” he said.

“We will now put the proposal to member states. The phaseout is meant to make sure solar panel producers in Europe have time to adapt to the new situation,” he added.

It was originally proposed that the duties be maintained for another two years before being dropped but there was only dwindling support for this option.

A majority of EU countries last month opposed the commission’s initial plan, putting pressure on the EU executive to soften its position.

The commission has also proposed cutting the minimum price for panels to 0.46 euro (49 US cents) per watt. In its new proposal this price could be steadily cut.

The EU and China came close to a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of dumping by Chinese solar panel exporters.

To avoid that, both sides agreed to allow limited tariff-free imports of panels at a minimum price of 0.56 euro per watt, anti-dumping duties of up to 64.9 percent for those outside the agreement and anti-subsidy duties capped at 11.5 percent.

SolarPower Europe, which represents those in the solar industry opposed to duties, has said the large majority of companies wanted the removal of trade barriers, which would hinder the development of the European solar power generation industry.

The case is due to be settled by March 3.


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