The U.S., China and the European Union have started preliminary discussions about a global agreement on the international solar panel trade, according to senior White House official Michael Froman.
The talks come days after the EU imposed test tariffs on Chinese exporters that sell solar panels in Europe, as the European Commission accuses Chinese producers of "dumping" their products into the European market at unfairly low prices.
Froman, who advises President Barack Obama on the global economy, told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Thursday that initial talks have already started.
“There have been some initial discussions with both the European market and China about how to deal with this on a global basis,” Froman told the committee at a Senate confirmation hearing. Froman is a nominee to become the next U.S. Trade Representative.
EU trade spokesman John Clancy wouldn't’ confirm the existence of the talks or comment further on them, but he cited a recent statement from EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht, where de Gucht signaled that a three-way settlement is an open possibility.
The U.S. imposed tariffs of 24 to 36 percent on Chinese solar panel imports in October 2012, according to the New York Times. That’s lower than Europe’s flat rate of 47.6 percent, which takes effect in August.
Froman’s remark came after questions from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who said the issue is “hugely important” for U.S. renewable energy producers. “Our government can’t resolve this on its own,” said Wyden, at the hearing. “We’ve got to have, really, a global settlement. We’ve got to have an opportunity for governments to discuss this, ours and China and Europe’s.”
Froman said he backed some sort of global arrangement, adding that the solar panel trade has a lengthy supply chain, involving polysilicon makers, as well as solar panel makers and installers.
China has since fired back against Europe, launching anti-dumping investigations against European wine. Europe is China’s largest trading partner.