EU, China resolve solar dispute - their biggest trade row by far

Sat Jul 27, 2013 8:26am EDT
 
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By Robin Emmott and Ben Blanchard

BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) - China and the European Union defused their biggest trade dispute by far on Saturday with a deal to regulate Chinese solar panel imports and avoid a wider war in goods from wine to steel.

After six weeks of talks, the EU's trade chief and his Chinese counterpart sealed the deal over the telephone, setting a minimum price for panels from China near spot market prices.

European solar panel makers accuse China of benefitting from huge state subsidies, allowing them to dump about 21 billion euros ($28 billion) worth of below-cost solar panels in Europe last year, putting European firms out of business.

Other European industries that have accused China of dumping have faced imports of about 1 billion euros a year.

Europe planned to impose hefty tariffs from August 6 but, wary of offending China's leaders and losing business in the world's No. 2 economy, a majority of EU governments - led by Germany - opposed the plan, which led to the compromise deal.

"We found an amicable solution," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said. "I am satisfied with the offer of a price undertaking submitted by China's solar panel exporters," he said, referring to the minimum price for China's imports.

Chinese Commerce Ministry Spokesman Shen Danyang welcomed the deal, hailing a "positive and highly constructive outcome".

An EU diplomatic source said that in the solar agreement, the agreed price was 0.56 euro cents per watt, near the spot price for Chinese solar panels in July in Europe, according to solar exchange pvXchange.   Continued...

 
Workers install a solar panel in Jiuquan, Gansu province, July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer