EU trade chief wants speedy end to solar row with China

EU trade chief wants speedy end to solar row with China Beijing: The European Union's trade chief said on Friday that Brussels desires a speedy end to a trade dispute with Beijing over tariffs it imposed on Chinese solar panels, but suggested it could take time.

"The EU has only one wish: to achieve a negotiated settlement as soon as possible on the basis of undertakings that can remove the injury on our markets, nothing more, nothing less," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told reporters.

"The EU hopes to achieve an amicable solution."

De Gucht spoke after morning talks with Gao Hucheng, China's Minister of Commerce at the annual meeting of the two sides' joint economic and trade commission.

Gao, appearing with De Gucht, said: "Both sides have the wish and goodwill to address the solar panel issue" through discussions about prices.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, this month imposed an average tariff of 11.8 per cent on solar panel imports from China -- rising to 47.6 per cent on August 6 if there are no negotiations based on a Chinese commitment to address the problem.

De Gucht said that he and Gao had yet to take up the issue of solar panels, but added that they would do so.

He was cautious, however, saying: "This kind of issue is rarely solved overnight."

De Gucht was due to speak to reporters again later today.

In addition to solar cells, Brussels and Beijing are also involved in a series of disputes covering other products, ranging from steel pipes to wine, that have sparked fears of a trade war.

China said this month it will deal "appropriately" with the EU's decision to challenge it at the World Trade Organisation after Beijing slapped duties on some steel products.

Beijing has launched a probe into imports of EU wine and chemicals amid accusations it is selling goods below cost -- a process known as "dumping" -- while the EU has threatened an investigation into the country's telecom equipment firms.

The tit-for-tat trade measures have triggered concerns over the repercussions they may cause to broader business relations between the two.

Total trade between the two sides fell 3.7 per cent year-on-year in 2012, with China's imports from the bloc rising 0.4 per cent to USD 212 billion, while shipments in the opposite direction tumbled 6.2 per cent to USD 334 billion, Chinese customs data showed.

AFP