Chinese producers have been accused of exporting solar panel glass at unfairly low prices

Solar panels back at heart of EU-China trade war

The EU has imposed hefty duties on Chinese imports of glass used in solar panels, reigniting a dispute over product dumping.

The European Commission said in a statement today that the duties, ranging from 17.1 per cent to 42.1 per cent, would come into force tomorrow in response to Chinese producers exporting at unfairly low prices that threatened European manufacturers.

The measures are provisional, with a final ruling set to be made by the EU's 28 member states before May 27.

The two sides have only just settled a far larger trade dispute over alleged dumping of and subsidies for solar panels and components from China – totalling €21bn (£17.5bn) in 2011. The Commission initially proposed heavy duties in that case, but, facing dissent from a majority of EU member states, ended up agreeing to let in a certain volume at a fixed price.

The EU solar glass market is valued at less than €200m, a tiny fraction of the EU's total imports from China worth €290bn in 2012, but the complaint marks a new EU challenge to China and its exporters.

The solar glass investigation follows a complaint from EU ProSun Glass, a group of producers led by EU sector leader GMB of Germany, which said Chinese peers had a manufacturing capacity twice as big as total global demand.

The Commission said that average import prices from China fell by 27 per cent from 2009 to 2012 and its share of the EU market expanded to 29 per cent from 6 per cent.

The complainant, whose members say they represent more than half of EU solar glass production, had said duties of more than 100 per cent were required to bring Chinese prices of below €4 per square metre to a breakeven level of €7 to €9.

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