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Eighteen EU member countries had opposed the move.
A punitive tariff of about 12 per cent would be levied on the import of solar panels, cells and wafers this week, EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht announced on Tuesday.
That will increase to an average of 47 per cent in August unless a settlement is reached with China in the next 60 days.
According to EU calculations, a fair sale price for Chinese solar panels should be 88 per cent higher than what they are currently being sold for.
“It has the potential to destroy an important industry in Europe if we don’t act today,” said Mr De Gucht in Brussels. He said more than 20,000 jobs in Europe are at stake.
The Chinese commerce ministry has expressed disappointment at the decision.
“The Chinese side expresses its resolute opposition,” said a ministry statement on Wednesday. “We hope the European Union will further show sincerity and flexibility and a mutually acceptable solution can be found through consultations.”
The EU is China’s biggest trading partner, with total 2012 imports and exports of about $546 billion, according to Chinese government data.
Solar panel exports in 2011 stood for about seven per cent of China’s total exports to the EU.
According to economic research institute Prognos, a tariff of 20 per cent would cost the European economy up to 175,500 jobs and 18.4 billion euros of added value over the next three years.