China, EU face dumping claim

Updated: 2012-09-16 07:46

By Fu Jing in Brussels (China Daily)

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Talks on horizon to mitigate solar-cell dispute

Beijing said Brussels has agreed to begin dialogue and cooperation to resolve the multi-billion-dollar anti-dumping investigation towards China's solar panel manufacturers.

But Brussels refused to go into details of such a stance, revealed by Chong Quan, China's deputy representative for international trade talks, after three-hour intensive talks with senior officials of European Commission on Friday afternoon.

"They (Brussels) agreed (to hold dialogues) - and I found they are very candid and pragmatic," Chong told China Daily. "I respect my negotiation partner."

But when asked how strong Brussels' intention is, Chong said: "I don't know."

Brussels was part of Chong's three-stop mission to send a clear message from Beijing, which wants to solve this dispute through "consultation, dialogues and cooperation." Before holding talking with Jean-Luc Demarty, the European Commission's director general for trade, he was negotiating in Germany and has now moved on to talks in France.

EU trade spokesperson John Clancy refused to elaborate about the three-hour discussion in Brussels. Clancy said the European Commission has begun an "open" anti-dumping investigation on China's solar panel exports, as it is required to do under the WTO framework and EU law.

He said input "from all stakeholders" is now welcome.

Clancy also confirmed that EU and Chinese trade officials discussed preparations for next week's EU-China summit in Brussels.

Chong confirmed that China's Minister of Commerce Chen Deming will be in Premier Wen Jiabao's delegation that will attend the summit during a one-day visit to Belgium.

Wen and Chen are expected to urge Brussels to negotiate. Chong said both sides are eager to resolve this dispute through dialogue and both sides need to make every effort to avoid a trade war.

In the face of a severe economic slowdown and the magnitude of this dispute, Chong said: "Both of us will become losers if a trade war occurs and the situation is out of control."

Jodie Roussell, public-relations director for Trina Solar Europe, said the solar energy ecosystem is composed of companies from around the world and a typical solar project today would take capital equipment and raw materials from Germany, transform them into solar energy systems in China, and use a Dutch logistics provider to deliver them to developers in Italy.

"If high tariffs are levied, like those in the US, we could see the global solar industry suffer a serious blow, and potentially be set back 10-15 years," said Roussell. "Tens of thousands of jobs across Europe, and across the world, could be lost."

Chong said he invited Demarty to visit Beijing and discuss the dispute intensively, and Demarty agreed. Chong added that representatives of the solar panel industry in China are eager to consult with their European counterparts while the governments are in negotiation.

Chong said the EU should pay attention not only to China's exports of solar panels to the EU but also to the more than 200,000 jobs they create for its industry of photovoltaic power system installation. The EU exports raw materials and technology worth tens of billions of dollars to China to stimulate growth of the solar panel industry of the EU and that of China.

"We hope the EU can deliver an all-round, objective and fair judgment on the case, and solve the challenges through cooperation instead of unilateral trade-restriction measures," Chong said.

Demarty was quoted by Chinese sources as saying that the EU initiated the case based on application from local enterprises, but it held no pre-judgment for the result of the investigations.

In the news release, Demarty said the EU was willing to conduct consultations and discussions with China to explore solutions to the issue within the framework of the rules of the World Trade Organization and the laws of the EU.

Xinhua contributed to the story.