EU tariffs plan ‘drops boulder’ on China-Europe trade relations

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China has warned that European Union plans to levy punitive duties against Chinese manufacturers would “severely impair” bilateral trade ties between the two blocs.

A European Committee made up of member states met yesterday to decide whether the Commission would impose tariffs, which would average 47%. The commission refused to comment on the details and outcome of the meeting.

But Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) spokesman Shen Danyang told a press conference today that even if reports of a 47% average duty against imports of Chinese solar products proved true, China urged the EU to consider the bigger picture of bilateral ties and make efforts to handle the issue properly.

“Up until today, China remained open to dissolving frictions through dialogue and negotiations,” Danyang was reported as saying by English national newspaper China Daily.

Countries should join efforts to guard against trade protectionism and remove barriers in order to achieve common development, Danyag said. He added that those who go against the consensus will disrupt the economic recovery process and undermine market confidence.

In further comments reported by Reuters, Danyang said provoking “trade friction” with China was like “dropping a boulder on one's own foot” and would not help Europe break free from economic crisis.

A source at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce revealed to the China Daily that the country has almost completed its own investigations into solar-grade polysilicon from the United States, the European Union and South Korea, but the timing of announcing the preliminary rulings depends on the EU's decision on whether to impose punitive duties on Chinese-made solar panels, experts said.

“The investigations have been near their conclusion for quite some time,” the source with the Ministry of Commerce reportedly said.

On 1 November, MOFCOM launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations of imported polysilicon from the EU.

Another probe was launched on 26 November to determine whether retroactive duties should be levied.

“China's announcement of the preliminary rulings of the trade investigations is behind schedule, but the Ministry of Commerce is probably waiting for the EU's official rulings of the solar panel investigations,” an official surnamed Zhang from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products was reported as saying by the China Daily.

Furthermore, at a press conference on 9 May MOFCOM spokesman Yao Jian said: “China would not like to see the trade war, and will safeguard earnestly the interests of Chinese enterprises supposed EU to set trade restrictions on PV imports from China, and hopes EU to adopt prudent measures on it.”

Jian said that China and EU are important trade partners, and dialogue and consultations were the right choice to solve trade disputes on PV products. The EU is China's largest trading partner and the largest recipient of imports from China, and the two parties enjoy a wide range of economic and trade cooperation. The proper handling by the EU of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against PV imports from China is therefore of great significance to the overall situation of bilateral economic and trade relations, MOFCOM said.

“As for the current trade dispute, the two parties should solve them through further consultations, so as to promote common development,” Jian said.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for Germany's economy ministry named the European Commission's position “hard” and said his ministry was urging the commission and China to continue the political dialogue to try and still ultimately reach an amicable solution.

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