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Commentary: EU needs to think big, like APEC

(China Daily)

08:31, September 11, 2012

As trade ministers in the Asia-Pacific region agreed Thursday to slash the tariffs of 54 green products including solar batteries, the European Commission, on the same day, announced a decision running exactly the opposite.

The European Commission started anti-dumping investigation into imports of solar panels and key components from China, claiming the products were being exported for less than costs and squeezing counterparts out of business.

However, the APEC leaders offered a precisely different concept and solution to the green product trade, as they believe lower tariffs will "contribute significantly to our green growth and trade liberalization objective."

As the world is grappling deep in the prolonged economic quagmire, APEC leaders' moves open up new chances for shared boon, either economically and ecologically, while EU's probe wields a "big stick" to its flimsy economic recovery and troubles the green agenda.

No agreement could be reached without compromise and consultation. APEC leaders also have concerns of protecting their domestic industries when discussing which products should be put into the basket of tariff cuts.

But after rounds of talks, they stroke a very good balance of interests among all members, which include major economic engines such as the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week in Beijing that she preferred negotiations, rather than a confrontational approach to solar trade disputes. However, the EU rushed into the bold act on the heels of Merkel's China trip, which undermines the Chancellor's goodwill to keep divergence under control.

The presence of China's solar industry owes to the hard work and low pay of Chinese workers, as well as Chinese engineers' independent research on solar technology. The affordable price of Chinese solar panels is entitled to be viewed as a contribution to the global green efforts.

Instead of benefiting from the protective measures, if taken, the EU solar industry will suffer also. Last year, China bought polysilicon and other raw material for solar panel making worth $1.12 billion last year, and $1.71 billion of equipment from Germany and Switzerland.

If punitive duties were added, EU's equipment makers will taste the bitterness of dwindling orders from China, and its solar power station operators will run at higher costs. In the end, it is the ordinary consumers that will pay the bills.

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