China has warned that it could retaliate if the European Union imposes trade duties on the importation of Chinese-manufactured solar products.

In a transcript published by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (MOFCOM), Chong Quan the deputy representative of MOFCOM called on the EU to “seriously consider China’s suggestions to settle the dispute through dialogue”, urging the EU and China to work together in order to “find a solution acceptable to both sides”.

However, Quan went on to warn that: “If the EU stubbornly insists on handicapping the product, seriously damaging the interests of Chinese companies, the Chinese government will not idly stand by.”

Quan noted that the Chinese PV export market was worth $200 billion last year and that the EU was responsible for more than 70% of that market. MOFCOM estimates that the EU anti-dumping case will affect more than 40 million Chinese workers. As a result Quan was quick to point out that “the Chinese government attaches great importance to the case”.

Quan also dismissed reports that China’s leadership transition caused communication between the two parties to break down. Quan claimed that Permier Wen Jiabao personally talked to leaders of the European Commission as well as a number of EU member states affected by the investigation. Quan said: “Communication channels of the two sides at all levels has been unblocked, China has never interrupted or delayed for any reason, the consultations with the EU.”

The deputy representative insisted that any potential duties could hamper future relations, stating: “There is no doubt that the improper handling of the photovoltaic case is bound to have a serious negative impact on the economic and trade relations with the EU.”

The UK solar industry is thought to be one of the PV markets that could be impacted the greatest by any decision to impose duties on Chinese solar products as, currently, more than 80% of solar installed in the UK originates from China.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has declared that it would be opposing the implementation of any European trade duties on Chinese solar products. Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Paul Barwell chief executive of the STA said: “We believe in an open market for the solar industry and feel that the uncertainty created by these investigations is detrimental to the stability and growth of the UK market.

“Furthermore, the archaic approach to pre-registration of all Chinese imports which 'might' be subject to retroactive duties will create unnecessary uncertainty for the UK PV industry just at a time when our market is showing signs of growth.”

The uncertainty created by the pre-registration of all Chinese imports has already caused a number of cancelled orders in the UK. Milan Nitzschke, president of EU Prosun believes that the anti-dumping investigation is a positive step for the European solar industry. “Fair competition benefits everybody. We need anti-dumping measures in the EU as soon as possible,” he said.

Quan remains optimistic about China’s ability to negotiate a deal with the EU, stating: “I would like to reiterate that the Chinese government has consistently advocated industry dialogue and cooperation to solve the problems of development and competition, we once again call on the EU to seriously consider China's stance and proposals.”