Home >news >world >EU trade chief sees speedy end to China solar row

Beijing: The European Union’s trade chief expressed confidence on Friday that Brussels and Beijing can reach a speedy agreement in a bitter dispute over Chinese solar panels that sparked fears of a debilitating trade war.

“I trust that we can come to a solution in the coming days or coming weeks," EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said at a press conference in Beijing.

De Gucht spoke after talks with Gao Hucheng, China’s minister of commerce, at the annual meeting of the two sides’ joint economic and trade commissions.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, this month imposed an average tariff of 11.8% on solar panel imports from China—rising to 47.6% on 6 August if there are no negotiations based on a Chinese commitment to address the problem.

The tariffs on solar panels are provisional for six months, with EU member states having a vote in December on whether to make them permanent or not.

De Gucht had said earlier this month that Chinese panels were being sold at up to 88% below cost in the European market. Complaints from European companies had triggered a probe.

On Friday, De Gucht suggested that the 6 August deadline was a key factor in the need to clinch a settlement.

“We should reach an agreement so as to have a solution which can be implemented by the 6th of August," he said.

Though De Gucht insisted that the solar panel issue was not included in the discussions at the annual meeting, he said that negotiators have been working on it in both Brussels and Beijing.

“I think these meetings have been very helpful," he said.

He declined to reveal the content of the negotiations.

“These are very technical things which have to be figured out," he said. “We need to contact customs and so on."

China’s commerce ministry had no immediate reaction to De Gucht’s comments.

Earlier, at a joint appearance with the European, Gao said: “Both sides have the wish and goodwill to address the solar panel issue" through discussions about prices.

In addition to solar cells, Brussels and Beijing are also involved in a series of disputes covering other products, ranging from steel pipes to wine, that have sparked fears of a trade war.

China said this month it will deal “appropriately" with the EU’s decision to challenge it at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after Beijing slapped duties on some steel products.

Beijing has launched a probe into imports of EU wine and chemicals amid accusations it is selling goods below cost—a process known as “dumping"—while the EU has threatened an investigation into the country’s telecom equipment firms.

The tit-for-tat trade measures have triggered concerns over the repercussions they may cause to broader business relations between the two.

The tariffs on solar panels are provisional for six months, with EU member states having a vote in December on whether to make them permanent or not.

According to Chinese industry figures, China exported $35.8 billion of solar products in 2011, more than 60% of them to the EU, while it imported $7.5 billion-worth of European solar equipment and raw materials. AFP

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