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EU probe may spark wider dispute

By DING QINGFEN and XIE YU (China Daily)

08:13, September 05, 2012

China is considering taking retaliatory measures against a likely investigation by the European Commission into Chinese photovoltaic companies, a source from the Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday.

Media reports have speculated that the commission, the executive body of the European Union, will announce such an investigation before Thursday. The action is being sought by Germany's SolarWorld and other European companies, which on July 24 filed an anti-dumping complaint against their Chinese competitors.

In the face of the current global economic troubles, most Chinese photovoltaic companies have suspended their production this year. Authorities in the country have hinted they will retaliate against European wine and German exporters of polysilicon, if the solar case were to go forward.

"We have been consulting with the EU about this matter in recent days, but we are not optimistic about the result," said the ministry source, who requested anonymity.

The source also said: "The investigation involves a large number of Chinese solar panel exports" and "would strike a big blow to the local industry".

"China is also studying how to respond to the case and how to fight back appropriately," he added.

Europe is China's most important market for solar products. Of China’s $35.8 billion worth of solar product exports in 2011, the EU received more than 60 percent, or worth $20.4 billion.

Some industry insiders believe that if the EU decides to start an investigation, a large number of Chinese PV companies will be at risk of bankruptcy.

During a visit to China last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped the trade dispute could be solved through negotiations.

The ministry source said the EU recently "sent a note to the Chinese government about the investigation".

"We appreciate Merkel's words, but her views do not represent those of the EU," he said.

If the EU does start an investigation, it will be the largest trade dispute measured by trade value to involve China.

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