China criticizes EU duties on solar panels, announces anti-dumping probe of European wine

BEIJING, China – China’s government on Wednesday criticized European anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels and announced its own probe of Europe’s wine exports.

The European duties announced Tuesday are a blow to financially strapped Chinese solar panel producers that are struggling with excess production capacity and a price-cutting war. The EU said it would postpone imposing the full 47 per cent duties on solar panels, cells and wafers until August to allow time for negotiation.

The Ministry of Commerce said it was in “resolute opposition” to the European duties.

“We hope the European Union will further show sincerity and flexibility and a mutually acceptable solution can be found through consultations,” the ministry said.

In the same statement, the ministry announced it was launching an investigation into whether European wine exports were improperly subsidized. It said Chinese imports of European wine have grown rapidly, causing an impact on China’s producers.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, did not respond when asked at a regular briefing whether the wine investigation was retaliation for the solar panel duties.

Dumping traditionally means selling a product abroad at a lower price than at home but some governments also take action if the price is deemed to be below production cost or unfair in some other way.

Premier Li Keqiang, China’s top economic official, warned during a visit to Switzerland that European anti-dumping cases against Chinese solar power and telecommunications equipment would harm both sides. Li gave no indication how Beijing might respond but his comments fueled fears Beijing might retaliate against European telecom equipment suppliers.

European imports of Chinese-made solar panels totalled 21 billion euros ($27 billion) in 2011. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said Chinese dumping “has the potential to destroy an important industry” and more than 20,000 European jobs are at stake.

China also faces complaints by the United States that it is improperly subsidizing solar panel producers and hurting U.S. producers.

Washington imposed tariffs of up to nearly 250 per cent on Chinese-made solar panels last year. U.S. imports of solar panels and cells in 2011 totalled $3.1 billion.