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EU trade chief sees speedy end to China solar row

Last Updated: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 22:46

Beijing: The European Union`s trade chief expressed confidence on Friday that Brussels and Beijing can reach a speedy agreement in a bitter dispute over Chinese solar panels that sparked fears of a debilitating trade war.

"I trust that we can come to a solution in the coming days or coming weeks," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said at a press conference in Beijing.

His remarks came after the European Commission, the EU`s executive arm, imposed an average tariff of 11.8 percent on solar panel imports from China, which will rise to more than 47 percent in August if negotiations fail to resolve the dispute.

China hit back at the tariffs by launching an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy enquiry into sales of European wine, which analysts said could hit wine exports from France and Italy, stoking fears the dispute was escalating.

De Gucht dismissed trade war fears, however, saying that an escalation "would be stupid for both sides".

He also suggested that the August deadline was a key factor in the push for a settlement.
"We should reach an agreement so as to have a solution which can be implemented by the 6th of August," he said, referring to the date the tariffs are set to increase.

The solar panel tariffs, which were introduced this month on a provisional basis, have sparked divisions among EU nations, who will vote in December on whether to make them permanent.
De Gucht`s eagerness to resolve the dispute may be an effort to save face before EU member states vote against the tariffs, Tao Jingzhou, managing partner of law firm Dechert LLP China said.

"He may also have realised that... It is better to reach a reconciliation with China than have the European Commission`s decision to impose the anti-dumping tax vetoed (by the member states)," he told AFP.

"It mainly depends on how China builds up its alliance in the EU, the better it is done, the more likely the European Commission will take a step back," Tao said.

De Gucht said he had "taken notice" of member states` differing opinions, adding: "It`s up the commission to negotiate an agreement (with China)... Apart from that, I have no feelings about what the member states have been saying."

He spoke after talks with Gao Hucheng, China`s minister of commerce, at the annual meeting of the two sides` joint economic and trade commissions.

Earlier today in a joint appearance with De Gucht, Gao said: "Both sides have the wish and goodwill to address the solar panel issue" through discussions about prices.


First Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 22:46
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