China aims to avoid a trade war; specific tariffs reported

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On Wednesday, EU commissioners backed EU trade chief, Karel De Gucht’s proposal to impose provisional anti-dumping (AD) duties of between 37 and 68% on Chinese photovoltaic imports from June 6, an anonymous source close to the European Commission confirmed to pv magazine.

China’s reaction so far has been mild and no signs of retaliation have yet been sent. Indeed, the Asian country has called for dialogue.

According to Chinese government news portal China.org.cn, Yao Jian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said during a news conference on Thursday, "We don’t want to see a trade war; as major trade partners, China and the EU should resort to dialogue and consultations to resolve frictions."

However, China’s ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, Yi Xiaozhun, called the decision a "mistake." "It will send the wrong message to the world that protectionism is coming," wrote Reuters, quoting Xiaozhun.

Specific tariffs

The EU Commission is planning to implement average provisional AD duties of 47% on Chinese photovoltaic imports from June 6. Overall, tariffs will range from 37 to 68%. The EU source continued, "Those companies that cooperate will get a lower duty and those who refuse to cooperate will get the higher duties."

According to a report published by the Wall Street Journal, which had access to the EU Commission’s AD duties plan, it is expected that Suntech and its subsidiaries will pay duties of 48.6%, LDK Solar Ltd 55.9%, Trina Solar Ltd., 51.5% and JinkoSolar Co. 58.7%.

"We have decided to impose these emergency measures (provisional duties) in June, because many of these companies may not be around by the time the 15-month investigation period ends in December, when the final anti-dumping duties will be applied," the EU source told pv magazine.

The EU commission sent a working paper detailing the provisional duties to all 27 member states on Wednesday. They now have until May 15 to submit their non-binding comments, which will then be discussed. The next crucial step is on June 6, when the EC will likely introduce the provisional duties.

Industry reaction

With respect to the EC’s duties proposal backing, another anonymous source close to European manufacturing companies told pv magazine, "The EU’s aim is to show a strong position in the negotiation table from the start towards China."

However, many in the EU photovoltaic sector are against the implementation of such measures. U.K.-based Solar Trade Association (STA) said in a statement yesterday that it was "disappointed" with the news, and "opposes the imposition of any duties which restrict free trade and the growth of the solar market."

Paul Barwell, CEO of STA added, "These duties, if imposed, will damage the UK solar market, particularly the large scale ground-mount sector. It seems absurd that Commissioner De Gucht is supporting these proposals, when the duties will actually result in a net reduction in EU solar jobs, restrict the growth of the solar market, and damage Europe’s chances of meeting its 2020 renewable targets."

U.K. company Orta Solar also announced yesterday that "it is being forced to consider postponing over £180 million (US$ 276.9 million) of U.K. solar projects in reaction to the EU trade levy," according to a company statement. "As of today we no longer know whether it will be economically viable to construct UK commercial scale Solar farms later in 2013 and beyond," added Orta Solar managing director.

On Wednesday, the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), comprised of 469 solar companies, warned of severe damage in the EU PV market and job losses as a result of this. "Imposing provisional duties would be against Germany’s and the EU’s energy policies," Andrea Maibaum, AFASE spokesperson told pv magazine in a telephone interview.

Edited by Becky Beetz; additional reporting by Wenjing Feng.

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