22 june 2013

China, EU closer to solar panel resolution

Global Times June 22, 2013, By Yang Jingjie

China's commerce minister Gao Hucheng Friday said China and the EU had agreed to solve an ongoing trade dispute over photovoltaic (PV) products via "price undertaking" talks, while the EU's trade chief expressed confidence that the spat would be brought to a speedy end.

Gao made the remarks after a ministerial-level meeting held between the two sides in Beijing on Friday.

Earlier this month, the EU imposed an interim anti-dumping duty of 11.8 percent on imports of all Chinese solar panel products. The duty could be raised to an average of 47.6 percent two months after going into effect should both sides fail to come to an agreement by August 6.

Gao told a press briefing that China and the EU both had "the wish and goodwill" to address the issue and were working toward a solution through negotiations concerning price undertaking.

The minister described the consultations as "positive" and "constructive," noting that he hoped both sides could maintain a pragmatic and flexible approach throughout the negotiations.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht confirmed at the press briefing that technical groups from the two sides were holding negotiations over price undertaking.

However, neither official offered details on pricing negotiations.

De Gucht said "I trust that we can come to a solution in the coming days or coming weeks," AFP reported.

He suggested that the August deadline was a key factor in finding a settlement in the near future.

Chinese PV enterprises Friday welcomed the move.

"We believe it is a step in the right direction for China and the EU to push for a negotiated solution," Fan Ruifeng, a spokesperson of Trina Solar, a US-listed company based in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times on Friday.

"We hope they can match their actions to their words and that the result will turn out to the satisfaction of both parties," Fan said.

While responding positively to the remarks, Wang Zhixin, a spokesperson for Yingli Green Energy, a major Chinese solar maker based in Baoding, North China's Hebei Province, told the Global Times Friday that it is still too early to be optimistic about the dispute being set aside.

Chinese solar producers have already been looking for alternative markets to reduce their reliance on exports to Europe.

Fan said his company is now eyeing up opportunities at home and in other emerging markets including the Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, De Gucht told a separate press conference on Friday that any agreement with China over the solar panel dispute would also help resolve a Chinese anti-subsidy probe into EU wine exports imposed right after the EU decision.

"If we aspire to an agreement on the solar panel case, we should also do away with actions that are linked to the solar panel case," De Gucht replied when asked about the wine investigation, Reuters reported.

AFP quoted analysts as saying that China's defensive maneuver could hit wine exports from France and Italy, stoking fears that the dispute might escalate.

However, De Gucht dismissed trade war fears, saying that an escalation "would be stupid for both sides."

Agencies contributed to this story

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