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Interview: Italian industry leader against duties on Chinese solar products

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BRUSSELS, July 4 (Xinhua) -- The Italian photovoltaic (PV) industry leader has expressed his opposition to the European Commission's decision to impose punitive duties on Chinese solar products.

Speaking to Xinhua in a recent interview, Emilio Cremona, president of the Italian PV Industry Association, forecast a shrinking solar market, job losses and factory closures hitting Europe as a result of the duties.

The association, also known as GIFI in Italian, represents around 165 Italian PV companies and more than 50 percent of the Italian solar market.

The remarks came just a month after the European Commission decided to impose provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of solar panels, cells and wafers from China -- a decision rejected by 18 EU member states and supported only by four including Italy.

From June 6, EU imports of Chinese solar products have been subject to a punitive duty of 11.8 percent until Aug. 6, after which duty will be raised to 47.6 percent if China and the EU cannot sort out the dispute through negotiations.

Citing studies by "prestigious international analysts," Cremona, also president of Universal Sun, a leading Italian PV firm, said that the duties would have a strong negative impact on the European PV market.

Due to the duties on Chinese solar products, the European solar market would shrink by 6 gigawatt (GW), 3 GW of which would be in Germany and 2 GW in Italy, he said.

"In this scenario, it's difficult to see how the European Commission's decision would protect the European PV industry. On the contrary, I foresee a loss of jobs and factories," Cremona added.

The duties against Chinese solar panels also came at a bad timing, when the European solar industry is in a delicate situation, he said. In Italy, the authorities have closed the "Conto Energia" subsidy initiative which has been supporting the solar market.

Despite the Italian government voting in favor of the European Commission's decision to impose duties on Chinese solar products, Cremona said his association was strongly against it.

"Even if Chinese products are penalized by duties, we have to be careful about the real costs of the duties to the EU," he said.

He took monowafer, one of the key components of solar panels, as an example where EU would suffer a lot from the punitive duties on China.

As the EU only has few producers of monowafers and has to import this key component mainly from China, the duties on Chinese monowafers would increase the production cost for the EU solar panel producers who would in turn raise prices of their products, he said.

As China and the European Commission is still in the process of negotiating a solution to the trade dispute, the Italian business leader said that, "I hope we will find a fair agreement which doesn't damage China and Europe."

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