May 28 - Why would Germany and other EU countries reject punitive tariffs on Chinese solar panel makers? That's the question being asked after a survey shows a majority of EU governments oppose a plan to impose hefty duties on solar panel imports from China. Joel Flynn reports
The clouds are gathering over Europe's once lucrative solar panel industry. A trade dispute with China has raised temperatures across the EU. The bloc's trade commissioner Karel De Gucht is threatening punitive tariffs against Chinese imports of solar panels. He says they've been "dumping" - flooding the market with panels sold for less than they cost to make. Commission spokesman John Clancy says De Grucht won't buckle despite at least half the EU's 27 countries now calling for a rethink. SOUNDBITE: Spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, John Clancy, saying (English): "He will not be intimidated in any way, he will not bend to external pressure, but rather he will follow through his obligation as a commissioner on behalf of all of Europe and all of its citizens in order to ensure that trade justice, trade defence, is the order of the day." Chinese companies have captured more than 80 percent of the European market - that's from almost zero just a few years ago. Almost 21 billion euros of China-made solar panels were sold in the EU in 2011. The commissioner has the authority to impose the tariffs but Germany, Britain and the Netherlands - among others - are against it. Kevin Allison from Reuters Breakingviews says he can see why. SOUNDBITE: Reuters Breakingviews Global Resources Columnist, Kevin Allison, saying: "The Chinese to Europe trade relationship is about much more than solar panels. Companies like Volkswagen are trying to put car factories in China, they see it as a future production hub and it wouldn't take much for China to interfere with that relationship, if it felt like it was being treated unfairly by Europe." The tariffs will increase the cost of Chinese panels by around 50 percent. They're due to be implemented on a trial basis next week. And unless there's a compromise they'll become law by December.