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Germany at odds with Brussels over solar tariffs

By Fu Jing in Berlin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-23 10:18

No political party in the German Parliament supports Brussels' decision to levy punitive tariffs against China's exports of solar panels, a German politician said.

Hans-Josef Fell, a senior member of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, admitted Germany and the European Commission hold conflicting positions on the issue.

Speaking before Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Germany, which begins Saturday, Fell said penalty tariffs would push up the prices of solar modules, which will negatively affect the solar market and benefit neither side.

Germany at odds with Brussels over solar tariffs

From the beginning of June, a provisional tariff of 47 percent has been levied against China's solar exports.

"No group in the German Bundestag supports the European Commission's proposal to penalize the Chinese solar industry," said Fell in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

Fell proposed in 2000 the Renewable Energy Law, which forms the basis of the success of the European photovoltaic industry.

Fell, who is also deputy chair of the German-Chinese Parliamentary Friendship Group, said the move was backed only by a small number of European solar companies that accused China of dumping solar products.

He said he is unsure of how many workers these companies represent, but some estimates place the figure at 8,000. However, if the solar market does not expand, it will affect about 400,000 workers in 500 solar factories in China and about 265,000 jobs in the downstream sectors in Europe.

This week, German economics minister Philipp Roesler said the European Commission made a "grave mistake" by agreeing to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China, and urged the commission to work to prevent the eruption of a trade conflict.

Germany, a leading global solar panel installer, and China, a major exporter, have been closely interlocked. Besides finished products, a rising number of solar manufactures have imported multi-billion-dollar machinery from China to assemble the solar modules.

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opposed Brussels' decision to launch anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations, which began in September, on China's solar exports. She has attempted political consultations to find a solution.

Fell said dumping should be avoided, but it is not a good idea to exert protectionism as this penalty will lead to high prices for solar modules, which will limit the market's growth.

"This helps no one," he said, adding that China, Germany and Europe need an "increasing market". This is crucial for the European Union, which is now in its second economic recession since 2007.

Fell said he hopes Li will not impose the same penalty on European exports to China, which may lead to a trade war neither side would win.

"I hope the premier can have clear words on fighting against anti-dumping, creating the fair market for both sides and avoiding the penalty," he said.

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