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* SolarWorld declines to comment
* SolarWorld to release statement by week-end - spokesman
* Filing marks latest development in industry trade war
DUESSELDORF/FRANKFURT, July 25 (Reuters) - A group of European solar companies led by Germany’s SolarWorld has filed an anti-dumping complaint against Chinese rivals with the European Commission, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, intensifying an ongoing industry trade war.
A spokesman for SolarWorld -- which had planned for months to submit the complaint -- declined to comment, saying only that the group would publish a press release on the matter at the end of the week.
SolarWorld spearheaded a similar initiative in the United States, leading the world’s largest economy in May to impose duties of 31 percent on solar panel imports from China, and ruling in favour of local firms that accused Chinese firms of price dumping.
Depending on the size of potential duties in Europe, punitive action could deal another massive blow to Chinese makers of cells and modules.
Europe is still the most important market for solar products, accounting for 74 percent of global installations in 2011, according to industry association EPIA.
It is also the main market for Chinese producers of cells and modules who have been eating away market share vis-à-vis their European peers for years.
In 2011, 57 percent of all solar cells were produced in China, with Taiwan a distant second at 11 percent, data by industry publication Photon showed. At close to 7 percent, Germany - the world’s largest solar market by total installations - comes third.
Experts fear trade action in Europe could take the trade war to the next level, prompting China to return the favour by taking similar measures against western solar companies.
Western solar companies have been at odds with their Chinese counterparts for years, alleging they receive lavish credit lines to offer modules at cheaper prices, while European players struggle to refinance.
Last week, China said it would open investigations into imported U.S. and South Korean solar-grade polysilicon.
“We hope that the European Commission will recognise that any protectionist measures would harm the entire European solar industry and that a misguided trade war would undermine years of progress,” said Jerry Stokes, head of European business at Suntech, the world’s No.1 maker of solar cells.
The European Commission declined to comment. Following the submission of the industry complaint, the Commission has 45 calendar days to decide whether there are enough grounds to proceed with an investigation.
If the Commission goes ahead with an investigation, it has nine months to decide whether to impose provisional duties and must conclude its investigation within 15 months. (Reporting by Anneli Palmen and Christoph Steitz; Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels)