EU considers possibility of negotiated settlement with the U.S. for China solar trade dispute

The EU Trade commissioner and the Chinese vice minister held an informal meeting to discuss the EU’s plans to impose provisional anti-dumping duties of an average 47% on Chinese solar imports on Monday in Brussels. According to an EU statement, De Gucht is willing to negotiate a solution, but Zhong did not offer any proposal.

However, EU Trade spokesman John Clancy said that this is not unusual because the formal stage of negotiations would only start "if and when a decision is taken on provisional tariffs by the legal deadline of June 5".

"It is the role of the European Commission to remain independent, to resist any external pressure and to see the ‘big picture’ for the benefit of Europe, its companies and workers based upon the evidence alone," added Clancy in a statement.

De Gucht told Zhong that he was aware that China was exerting pressure on EU member states to oppose the AD solar duties. According to the EU Commission statement, De Gucht told Zhong that, if necessary, they would ask the U.S. to partner with them to help reach a negotiated settlement.

The Chinese side described the meeting as "constructive".

The EU Trade commissioner and Zhong also spoke about other trade issues, including Chinese mobile telecommunications equipment manufacturers Huawei and ZTE Corp. De Gucht recently said that he was evaluating the possibility of launching an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into these companies.

EU member states’ stance

With respect to the EU member states’ stance on the anti-dumping duties, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are among the 14 or 15 member states that are currently expressing their opposition to the punitive duties, diplomats told news agency Reuters. In contrast, France and Italy have expressed their support for the duties.

A source close to the EU-China dispute told pv magazine on Monday that a majority of the EU anti-dumping Committee – between 14 and 15 of the 27 member state representatives – is against the duties, although German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Monday that up to 17 member states have expressed their opposition to the AD duties. On Friday the Committee delivered non-binding comments on the trade case to the Commission.

In related news, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for an end to the trade dispute at a joint press conference in Berlin on Monday. Li’s two-day visit in Germany was his only trip to a EU member state on his first foreign trip after taking office in March.

The European Commission is planning to impose anti-dumping (AD) duties of 47% on Chinese solar imports from June 6 and can override the objections of EU member states to the imposition of these provisional duties.

In line with EU legal procedures, on June 6, when the Commission issues provisional findings, there will be three possible outcomes: the imposition of provisional AD duties for six months; an extension of the investigation without provisional duties; or a termination of the investigation.

In the event of the investigation continuing, the next deadline would be on December 5 when a decision will be made by the European Council whether to implement final AD duties on Chinese solar imports for five years or to dismiss duties.

Read more on the PV trade disputes around the world in pv magazine‘s dedicated Trade cases feature.