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EU won't lift charges on Chinese energy-saving light bulbs for another year

EU won't lift charges on Chinese energy-saving light bulbs for another year

The European Commission will wait another year before scrapping charges that raise the price of Chinese-made energy-efficient light bulbs, an EU spokesman said Wednesday.
Johannes Laitenberger said the EU executive had bowed to a call from European industry that sought more time to adapt before ending antidumping duties on power-saving bulbs made in China that raise prices for European customers by two-thirds.
"In the overall Community interest, there are grounds to leave the possibility to continue in these antidumping measures for up to another year, mainly to allow in a changing reality a soft transition," he told reporters.
But only one out of four European producers _ Germany's Osram AG _ had pushed to keep the trade charges in place, part of what EU officials had earlier said was an effort to damage Dutch rival Royal Philips Electronics NV which makes bulbs in China.
The environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature immediately blasted the EU's "severe contradiction" in taxing low-power bulbs as it lectures consumers on saving energy.
The European Union is trying to cut back its growing energy bill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020, targeting power-draining lighting as one of the easiest ways to make quick energy savings.
Shifting to eco-friendly bulbs will soon be mandatory, as the EU plans to set new efficiency standards for all lights used in homes and workplaces and on streets. Most lamp manufacturers have agreed to phase out standard incandescent light bulb within eight years.
However, until now, the high cost of compact fluorescent bulbs has held shoppers back from switching over. And importing cheaper versions of these bulbs from China isn't an easy option.
Since 2001, the EU has slapped a 66 percent duty on imports of the bulbs from China because European producers claimed they were unfairly hurt by low-cost goods dumped on the European market.
Those fees were due to expire July 19, after five years. But they are still in place while the EU's executive arm hold talks with national trade experts _ including from Germany, which wants to keep the duties in place.
Laitenberger did not give exact dates for how long the charges will continue in effect. EU governments need to back the EU plan before it becomes final and they now have one month to decide on it.
The other three major European producers, Philips, General Electric Co. and Havells Sylvania want to see the duties lifted even though this will encourage more competition for bulbs they make in the EU. The Foreign Trade Association said the Europeans can't meet demand for power-saving bulbs at the moment, as more people try to save energy.
Less than 20 percent of the energy-saving bulbs are made in Europe, with more than two-thirds imported from China. Europeans bought bulbs worth euro376 million (US$514 million) from July 2005 to June 2006.
For industry, the situation is not clear-cut. Philips, GE and Sylvania together make more bulbs in Europe than Osram does. To complicate matters further, like Philips, Osram also makes bulbs in China that are sold at dumped prices.
And for European regulators, light bulbs are another trade headache as they try to steer a course between some very different views within the region on a surge of imports from lower-wage economies that some see as a boon for retailers and consumers and others a threat to homegrown industry.
"This case has once again shown the complexities of managing antidumping rules in a global economy and against the broad range of EU interests," said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.


Updated : 2020-12-05 02:36 GMT+08:00