Europe solar firms accuse China of dodging import duties

Europe solar firms accuse China of dodging import duties
A worker inspects solar panels in Gansu Province, China.

BRUSSELS - European firms on Wednesday accused Chinese solar panel makers of dodging hundreds of millions of euros in import duties and called on the European Union to launch an investigation.

The complaint threatens to spark a new flare-up in a long-running row on the issue that Brussels and Beijing only recently managed to damp down.

"Up to 30 per cent of Chinese solar imports bypass EU import measures through fraudulent circumvention," industry group EU ProSun said.

"European industry has already been devastated by illegal Chinese practices and the EU and European governments have lost substantial tax revenues at a time of great need," group spokesman Milan Nitzschke said in a statement.

EU ProSun said China was exporting solar modules and cells via Taiwan and Malaysia, passing them off as locally made to avoid EU levies, and it had lodged an official request with the European Commission for an investigation.

If found at fault, the Commission could impose heavy anti-dumping duties on the Chinese products concerned, in a repeat of previous bitter disputes between the two giant trading partners.

After months of tit-for-tat reprisals involving punitive levies on solar panels and a widening range of other goods, the EU and China called it quits in 2013 and agreed a new minimum price regime for solar panel imports from China.

This does not cover all Chinese companies however and there have been repeated complaints by European firms over alleged breaches of the accord which expires at the end of this year.

The Commission, the EU's executive arm which polices competition issues, launched an investigation in December into alleged Chinese dumping of solar glass, a key component of solar panels.

Estimated at about 210 million euros (S$303.8 million), solar glass manufacturing is just a small part of the overall market and Commission officials stressed at the time that the probe had nothing to do with the 2013 agreement.

EU ProSun has been a fierce critic of Chinese manufacturers who it says have largely destroyed Europe's solar panel industry.

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