BRUSSELS, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The European Union on Wednesday imposed hefty duties on Chinese imports of glass used in solar panels, saying China's producers were exporting at unfairly low prices that threatened European manufacturers.
The European Commission said in a statement that the duties, ranging from 17.1 percent to 42.1 percent, would come into force on Thursday.
The measures are provisional, with a final ruling set to be made by the EU's 28 member states before May 27.
The EU solar glass market is valued at less than 200 million euros ($271 million), a tiny fraction of the EU's total imports from China worth 290 billion euros in 2012, but the complaint marks a new EU challenge to China and its exporters.
The two sides have only just settled a far larger trade dispute over alleged dumping of and subsidies for solar panels and components from China - totalling 21 billion euros in 2011.
The Commission initially proposed heavy duties in that case, but, facing dissent from a majority of EU member states, ended up agreeing to let in a certain volume at a fixed price.
The solar glass investigation follows a complaint from EU ProSun Glass, a group of producers led by EU sector leader GMB of Germany, which said Chinese peers had a manufacturing capacity twice as big as total global demand.
The Commission said on Wednesday that average import prices from China fell by 27 percent from 2009 to 2012 and its share of the EU market expanded to 29 percent from 6 percent.
The complainant, whose members say they represent more than half of EU solar glass production, had said duties of more than 100 percent were required to bring Chinese prices of below 4 euros per square metre to a breakeven level of 7 to 9 euros. ($1 = 0.7374 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)