[UPDATE] SEIA calls for multilateral efforts to solve dispute with China

The SEIA said multilateral trade negotiations between the U.S., EU and China are important to end the dispute over anti-dumping and anti-subsidy allegations involving China’s $30 billion a year solar panels exports, warning that the row could have detrimental effects on the international photovoltaic industry if a settlement is not reached.

The statement comes as U.S. and EU officials deny press reports that they have entered into negotiations with China. The New York Times reported on Monday that the U.S. and the EU had decided to negotiate settlements with China but on Tuesday EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said there was no “common battle plan,” according to a report by Reuters.

"We have not discussed it," De Gucht told a meeting in New York sponsored by the European American Chamber of Commerce and the State University of New York.

The Washington, D.C.-based SEIA nevertheless said it was time for the West to work closer with the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) before the trade dispute affects the global solar supply chain.

In seeking a settlement with China, the U.S. is focusing on a quota system for Chinese exports and a minimum price for PV equipment in exchange for suspending U.S. duties on the products, according to a Bloomberg report.

The SEIA met last week with the Asia PV Industry Association and other organizations at the SNEC tradeshow in Shanghai to discuss the matter and agreed on a joint policy position, the Shanghai Solar Declaration, which strongly encouraged the U.S., China, the European Union and other nations to engage in multilateral trade negotiations aimed at ending the dispute.

John Smirnow, SEIA vice president of trade and competitiveness, welcomed what appears to be the beginning of an effort to reach a settlement.

"After expressing our intentions to the White House, we are very encouraged that these long-needed negotiations appear ready to proceed. Simply put, it’s time for everyone to work together toward a fair resolution of these cases."

Smirnow warned that the ongoing row could have detrimental effects on global solar industry and the economies of all three regions if no action was taken.

"There is clear evidence that disputes within one segment of the industry affect the entire solar supply chain. What’s more, they cause a ripple effect throughout the economies of the United States, Asia and Europe."

"In addition to resolving current disagreements, we hope this process will also lead to the creation of a pro-competitive, collaborative framework for preventing future trade conflicts and ensuring the adoption of balanced and equitable agreements in the future," Smirnow said.

While the SEIA expressed encouragement at what appears to be the beginning of a concerted, international effort to resolve the trade row, Smirnow added that "in attempting to settle this dispute, we strongly encourage the Administration to carefully evaluate what impact any actions may have on American consumers and U.S. workers."

Last year the U.S. slapped anti-dumping duties from 18.32 to 249.96% on Chinese manufactured solar cells and earlier this month the European Commission threatened to impose provisional anti-dumping duties of between 37 and 68% on Chinese PV imports as of June 6.

China, meanwhile, has accused the U.S. and the EU of subsidizing polysilicon and is reportedly set to impose anti-dumping duties of its own on imports of the material.