The European Commission made a proposal Wednesday to extend anti-dumping measures by one year against Chinese energy-saving light bulbs.
The proposal was put forward in accordance with the overall interests of the European Union (EU), commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger told reporters at a daily news briefing.
"There are grounds to leave the possibility of continuing these anti-dumping measures for another year, mainly to allow for a soft transition in a changing market reality" for the European industry, he said.
The EU has imposed an anti-dumping tariff of up to 66 percent on energy-saving light bulbs from China since 2001, which was due to expire in July 2006.
However, the EU later conducted an expiration review amid requests by industry to determine whether to prolong the tariffs for another five years.
During the review period, which lasts 15 months after the expiration and is set to end this October, the anti-dumping measures remain in force.
The proposal needs to be adopted by EU member states to become effective.
The one-year extension is started once the final decision is made, probably within one month, said Stephen Adams, the press officer for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
Whether to extend the anti-dumping duties against Chinese energy-saving bulbs has led to heated debate within the EU.
Last month, a majority of trade experts in the EU's executive body decided to support an end to the anti-dumping measures, a position also shared by Mandelson.
But the extension proposal was said to be a compromise mainly between Mandelson and Enterprise Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who has expressed concern about job losses at German producer Osram, part of the German-based Siemens group.
Osram has pushed to keep the duties in place, while most European producers, led by Dutch electronics group Philips, want them to be lifted.
Both companies have part of their production based in China for cost saving, but Philips has a much larger presence and imports more than other European companies, to such an extent that it can hardly be classified as a European producer.
"Continuing duties would be a backward, protectionist move to safeguard the short-term interests of one single company," Philips said in a statement prior to the commission's decision.
The Foreign Trade Association (FTA), which represents EU importers, said the move was bad news both for the industry and for consumers.
"It is not good for the European industry as some major producers do not want the duties to be extended. And also, it is not good for consumers since the prices are already high because of the duties," FTA spokesman Stuart Newman told Xinhua.
The anti-dumping measures were also criticized by environmentalists as unjustified in the EU's fight against global warming.
Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, the Switzerland-based World Wildlife Fund (WWF) urged the EU to end the duties, arguing that Europe has to rely on imports to meet its demand for low-energy light bulbs, which is essential to realize the bloc's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from the level of 1990.
"Ending the anti-dumping investigation and allowing imports of Chinese integrated compact fluorescent lamps could contribute to savings of 23 million tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to 0.5 percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions," Tony Long, director of the WWF's European Policy Office, said in a letter to EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
It was estimated that EU domestic production can only meet 25 percent of its demand for energy-saving light bulbs, which could reach up to 400 million units by the end of this year.