Module talks start between EU and China

The European Union has revealed confidential ‘technical level’ talks started in Brussels on Monday with a team of Chinese experts in a bid to find an amicable solution to the EU-China solar panel stand-off.

But despite the onset of negotiations, revealed yesterday by the EU, Europe’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made solar modules is all set to be the elephant in the room when EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has his annual meeting with Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng in Beijing on Friday.

EU trade spokesman John Clancy confirmed when de Gucht, who imposed initial duties on Chinese modules despite opposition from Berlin, meets Chinese commerce minister Hucheng for the annual EU-China joint committee meeting, the solar trade dispute will not be on the agenda.

The trade spokesman added, however, that the two officials were expected to discuss the issue ‘on the margins of the meeting.’

With China threatening to impose tit-for-tat duties on imported EU wines as a direct riposte to the French government of Francois Hollande which openly backed the solar panel duties, the EU escalated the dampening of relations further last week with another appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The 27-nation political bloc has joined Japanese opposition to the imposition of duties on EU-manufactured high performance stainless steel seamless tubes, of the type used in power station boilers.

China has imposed anti dumping duties on EU and Japanese imports of the tubes since Nov. 8 and the EU has now requested a consultation with China over the issue under the auspices of the WTO.

Friday’s meeting between de Gucht and Hucheng is set to discuss a bilateral investment agreement between the two powers, market access barriers across various sectors, licencing and market access in the financial and telecomms markets and improving the enforcement of intellectual property rights as well as preparing for the WTO ministerial in Bali later in the year.

Solar companies will probably find the ‘margins’ more interesting.