EU should cut minimum import price for Chinese solar panels


Solar panels are seen in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China on April 18, 2017. REUTERS / Stringer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is likely to lower the minimum price Chinese producers of solar panels are allowed to sell in Europe after a meeting of trade representatives from EU countries on Thursday, European sources said.

The possible reduction has been opposed by EU panel manufacturers who say it will kill jobs in the sector and EU importers and others in the industry who argue it will not cut enough the costs.

Chinese imports of solar panels have been subject to anti-dumping and subsidy measures since 2013, with an 18-month extension agreed by EU countries earlier this year. Chinese companies that sell below a defined minimum price are subject to import duties.

The European Commission has proposed a phasing out of the measures, including a schedule that reduces the minimum import price every three months.

Trade officials voted but failed to secure a majority for or against the plan, European sources said, leaving the Commission free to implement it.

The European Union faces a delicate balance between the interests of European manufacturers and those benefiting from cheap imports, while also being concerned about Beijing’s response, seen as a possible ally in the fight against protectionism and change climate.

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

EU ProSun, a group of manufacturers including the now insolvent German SolarWorld SWVKk.F, said a reduction in minimum prices would kill jobs and investment in Europe and “deliver” key enabling technology to China.

SolarPower Europe, which represents solar industry players opposed to taxes, supports a variable minimum price but says the timetable set by the Commission does not take into account the market price cuts since the start of the year. He argues that the proposed decision would hamper investment in solar energy in Europe.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by David Goodman

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