The European Union has threatened to impose tariffs on solar glass from China to curb import competition for EU producers, heightening trade tensions over renewable energy.
The EU opened an inquiry into whether Chinese makers of solar glass sell it in the 27-nation bloc below cost, a practice known as dumping. The glass is used to make solar panels, which are themselves the focus of two European trade investigations affecting China.
Since last year, the EU has been investigating alleged subsidies to Chinese solar-panel makers and alleged dumping by them in the bloc's biggest trade dispute of its kind. Those two cases could lead later this year to EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Chinese solar panels.
The new investigation will determine whether shipments of solar glass from China are "being dumped and whether the dumped imports have caused injury" to the EU industry, the European Commission, the bloc's trade authority, said.
The commission has nine months to decide whether to impose provisional anti-dumping duties for half a year and EU governments have 15 months to decide whether to apply "definitive" levies for five years.
The investigation stemmed from a January 15 dumping complaint by the industry group EU ProSun Glass on behalf of producers that accounted for more than 25 per cent of the EU's output of solar glass, the commission said, without identifying the companies.
The EU solar-glass market was valued at less than €200 million (HK$2.03 billion) the commission said. By comparison, EU imports of solar panels from China were worth €21 billion in 2011, the commission said in early September when it opened the dumping probe into those goods. The EU subsidy probe into Chinese solar panels began in November.