* New recommendation for 18-month extension vs initial 24
* Majority of EU countries voted in January against
* Measures include duties and minimum price agreement
(Adds Commission source on commissioner discussion)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Feb 7 The European Commission has
softened a proposal to extend anti-dumping duties on Chinese
solar panels, a document seen by Reuters showed, after
opposition from a majority of EU countries that want lower
The Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, presented
four options, with a recommendation to limit the extension of
measures to 18 months, instead of an original 24, and making
clear that this period represents a final phasing out of duties
that have been in place since 2013.
The issue will be put to a meeting of the EU's 28
commissioners on Wednesday, a source said. A Commission source
said they might be presented with a more open document with
several options but without a specific recommendation.
The Commission faces a delicate balancing act between the
interests of EU manufacturers and those benefiting from cheap
imports while also being concerned about the response from
Beijing, seen as a possible ally in the fight against
But Luc Triangle, general secretary of trade union
federation industriAll Europe, expressed his concern.
"Bowing to China against the Commission's own assessment
would create a fatal precedent also for other industries," he
The EU and China came close to a trade war in 2013 over EU
allegations of dumping by Chinese solar panel exporters.
To avoid that, both sides agreed to allow limited
tariff-free imports of panels at a minimum price of 0.56 euros
per watt, anti-dumping duties of up to 64.9 percent for those
outside the agreement and anti-subsidy duties capped at 11.5
A majority of EU countries last month opposed the
Commission's initial plan to extend anti-dumping duties for
another two years, putting pressure on the EU executive to
soften its position.
The EU governments did back a separate two-year extension of
tariffs designed to counter subsidies. Under the new
recommendation, they would also only be extended for 18 months.
The Commission has also proposed cutting the minimum price
for panels to 0.46 euros/watt. In its new proposal this price
could be steadily reduced.
The EU executive said in a paper sent in December to EU
members that ending the measures would likely lead to a
significant increase in dumped imports of solar cells and
modules and job losses.
EU ProSun, a group of manufacturers including Germany's
SolarWorld, said the measures had allowed the EU
industry to invest and recover and condemned the document's
"It's a clear signal to China that in 18 months it could
take over the industry," said EU ProSun president Milan
SolarPower Europe, which represents those in the solar
industry opposed to duties, has said the large majority of
players wanted the removal of trade barriers, which would hinder
the development of the European solar power generation industry.
The case is due to be settled by March 3.
(Editing by Alexander Smith and David Evans)