EU, China near deal on solar panel dispute

The European Union and China are near a settlement in their dispute over solar panel imports, press reports said Thursday, but Europeans manufacturers challenged the figures involved as still harmful to their business.

The Handelsblatt business daily said negotiators were ready to set a minimum price on imported Chinese solar panels at 57 cents per watt of power they produced.

This price would apply to the first seven gigawatts of solar panels imported.

Any panels imported above the seven gigawatt quota would then incur an anti-dumping tariff of 47.6 percent, the German daily said, without specifying its sources.

EU officials declined to comment directly on the report and the figures given.

"Discussions are on-going at the highest level as both sides seek an amicable solution," EU Trade spokesman John Clancy said.

EU ProSun, which lobbied successfully to get Brussels to impose anti-dumping duties on solar panel imports from China earlier this year, said the figures were "absurd" and it would go to Europe's top court to challenge any such settlement.

Chinese solar panel modules were currently being sold at 59 cents per Watt of output in Europe, EU ProSun head Milan Nitzschke told AFP.

"It would be absurd if the minimum price were to be lower than that," Nitzschke said, adding: "The amount of imports at seven gigawatts (would also) amount to a sales guarantee for China."

Earlier this month, China offered to cap annual exports of solar components to the EU at 10 gigawatts, state media reported in Beijing.

But shipments within this quota should be either tariff free or at a low rate, according to the reports, while those over the limit would be taxed "according to relevant rules".

In June, Brussels imposed an emergency anti-dumping tariff of 11.8 percent on imports of Chinese solar panels, which is set to rise to 47 percent if no settlement was reached by August 6.

Solar panels and a series of other EU-China disputes escalated sharply earlier this year, sparking fears of a full-blown trade war between the two major trading powers.