THE European Commission has softened its proposal to extend anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels to take account of opposition from a majority of EU countries, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, recommends limiting the extension of measures to 18 months, from an original 24, and making clear that this period represents a final phasing out of duties that have been in place since 2013.
The proposal will be put to a meeting of the EU’s 28 commissioners today, a source said.
The Commission faces a delicate balancing act between the interests of EU manufacturers and those benefiting from cheap imports, with nervousness about the response from the Chinese Government, seen as a possible partner in the fight against protectionism.
The European Union and China came close to a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of solar panel dumping by China.
To avoid that, both sides agreed to allow limited tariff-free imports of panels at a minimum price of 0.56 euros per watt, anti-dumping duties of up to 64.9 percent for those outside the agreement and anti-subsidy duties capped at 11.5 percent.
A majority of EU countries last month opposed the Commission’s initial plan to extend anti-dumping duties for another two years, putting pressure on the EU executive to soften its position.
However, the opposition from 18 countries fell short of a “qualified majority” that would be required to block a Commission proposal because they do not represent a majority of the EU’s population.
The EU governments did back a two-year extension of tariffs designed to counter subsidies. Under the new recommendation, they would also only be extended for 18 months.
The Commission has also proposed cutting the minimum price for panels to 0.46 euros/watt. In its new proposal, this price could be steadily reduced.
The case is due to be settled by March 3.(SD-Agencies)