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EU finalises China solar panel subsidy probe

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EU finalises China solar panel subsidy probe

Photo © vencav - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission concluded Wednesday an anti-subsidy probe into imports of Chinese solar panels which a top EU energy group said showed Beijing made "massive illegal" payments to its companies.

The Commission declined to confirm the details, saying only that it had informed interested parties -- including China -- of its findings and they could now comment on them.

"The Commission will ... consider these comments and determine what definitive action should be taken in the investigations," EU trade spokesman John Clancy told AFP.

Final remedies will go for approval to EU leaders by the end of the year.

Clancy stressed that the anti-subsidy probe was entirely separate from an anti-dumping investigation which led to punitive levies on imports of Chinese solar panels in June and which was settled in late July.

"Let me clarify that the disclosed findings in the anti-subsidy case do not undermine the amicable solution with China ... in the context of the anti-dumping proceeding," he said.

The Commission previously said that in light of the anti-dumping accord, it would not impose punitive duties in the anti-subsidy case but that it would continue the probe through to a solution.

EU ProSun, the main solar panel manufacturers' lobby group, said the Commission's anti-subsidy report showed that Chinese producers got government subsidies -- from cheap raw materials to electricity and funding -- of up to 11.5 percent of their sales.

"Chinese solar manufacturers which should have been declared bankrupt long ago have been bankrolled by state subsidies," EU ProSun head Milan Nitzschke said in a statement.

"Chinese subsidies have led to a Chinese takeover of the European solar market, resulting in numerous closures of European companies and factories, as well as thousands of job losses."

Failing Chinese action, "we therefore call on the EU to impose countervailing duties to counter the effect of these illegal subsidies and motivate China to stop these trade distorting practices," he said.

According to Chinese figures, China exported $35.8 billion (26.9 billion euros) worth of solar products in 2011, more than 60 percent to the EU, and imported $7.5 billion worth of European solar equipment and raw materials.

The investigation of Chinese solar panel imports has been the EU's biggest trade probe ever, covering a market worth some 21 billion euros initially, but this has since fallen dramatically due to overcapacity and tumbling demand.

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