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China has sent representatives to Europe for trade talks in an effort to resolve allegations Chinese companies dumped solar panels


China has sent representatives to Europe for trade talks in an effort to resolve allegations Chinese companies dumped solar panels on the European market, after European regulators last week opened a related anti-dumping investigation, according to a statement published Monday.

Chen Deming, China's Minister of Commerce, told reporters Sunday that ministry recently sent a vice ministerial delegation to Germany, France and the European Union to negotiate for a resolution to the recent trade war between Europe and China over imports of photovoltaic cells.

"China will negotiate with the European Union, the effort to protect the interests of Chinese companies," Chen said in written remarks published Monday.

In addition to trade negotiations, Chen also said that China would institute policies aimed at adjusting overcapacity in the country and increasing the demand for solar products in the domestic market.

The solar energy industries in Europe and China have an "interdependent, mutually beneficial cooperation relationship," the commerce minister said, adding that he hoped the negotiations with the EU would result in a "win-win" solution.

The European Commission said in a notice published Thursday it would investigate Chinese imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels after industry group EU ProSun filed a complaint July 24 that sparked an ongoing trade dispute between renewable energy players in China and their European counterparts.

If the commission concludes that dumping has occurred, the regulator will then examine whether tariffs against Chinese solar cell producers would be in the trading bloc’s best interests.

In Sunday's comments, Chen cited promises of negotiations made during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent visit to China as part of the two countries' economic cooperation summit.

Germany agreed that the issue of imports related to solar energy should be solved through dialogue if possible, with German Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler noting Germany's strong support of free trade.

The ongoing trade war between polysilicon makers in Europe and China — who have accused one another of illegally dumping their solar goods — was set off after EU ProSun alleged Chinese companies were selling solar energy products far below the cost of production, with a dumping margin of up to 80 percent in some cases.

EU ProSun alleges that Chinese companies are able to sustain enormous losses because they are bankrolled by the government, arguing that such tactics threatened the long-term health of European competitors. More than 20 European companies involved in solar energy products went out of business this year because of Chinese companies' anti-competitive practices, the group contends.

Following the July complaint, China's Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., the world's biggest solar panel manufacturer, pledged to cooperate fully with any investigation, but warned that further action to shield European solar companies from foreign competition would prompt retaliation.

But four Chinese polysilicon makers refused to wait for the outcome of a European investigation, and instead asked China on Aug. 17 to initiate anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probes on the importation of polysilicon from the European Union.

EU imports of the solar panel material increased more than 30 percent in the first half of 2012, but the price has dropped nearly 50 percent in that period, according to trade group the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association.

The European Commission is expected release the findings of its investigation into Chinese imports of solar panels within 15 months, the notice said.

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