BRUSSELS, July 29 (UPI) -- The European Union announced this weekend it has settled its solar panel antidumping dispute with China as tariffs were set to rise to 47.6 percent.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said Saturday "intensive negotiations" between European negotiators and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce had resulted in an "amicable solution that both the EU and China were looking for."
"We are confident that this price undertaking will stabilize the European solar panel market and will remove the injury that the dumping practices have caused to the European industry," De Gucht said in a statement.
The deal was seen as helping head off a larger trade war between the EU and China, after Beijing instituted its own probe into imported European wine and polysilicon, and indicated it would also take a close look at European luxury cars.
The agreement came seven weeks after Brussels had imposed provisional anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels, starting with an immediate hike of 11.8 percent. The tariff was set to rise to 47.6 percent on average by Aug. 6.
The move was taken after the European Commission accused China of undercutting the solar market in Europe -- the world's largest for solar panels -- and putting 25,000 jobs in the hard-hit European PV manufacturing industry at risk.
Chinese imports quickly grew from a small share of the European market to dominate 80 percent of sales in just a few years thanks to the low prices.
De Gucht didn't reveal what the new minimum prices for Chinese PV panels would be, but The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, citing EU sources it did not name, said it was set at 74 cents per watt and would apply only to imports of solar panels that produce up to 7 gigawatts per year.
Larger panels would still be subject to the tariffs under the deal, which needs the approval of the European Commission and is expected to last until the end of 2015.
The 74-cent level is well below the $1.06 minimum sought by European solar manufacturers and could result in lawsuit by EU ProSun, which represents around 40 European solar-panel producers.
"This is essentially a guarantee of sales at that level and more for China and an authorization to sell at dumped prices," Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, said in a statement issued The New York Times.
He called it "contrary in every respect to European law."
China's Ministry of Commerce, meanwhile, hailed the deal as showing that the two world economic powers can resolve their differences through negotiations, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said the solar panel agreement "showcased pragmatic and flexible attitudes from both sides and the wisdom to resolve the issue."
He said the resolution "is conducive to an open, cooperative, stable and sustainable economic and trade relationship between China and the EU," adding that China "is willing to further promote exchanges and cooperation with the EU side in the photovoltaic industry field."