Monday

13th Jul 2020

EU bows to industry on Chinese light bulbs

  • Lightbulbs will remain more expensive for at least a year (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission has given in to industry pressure and extended the bloc's import duties on environment-friendly light bulbs made in China for another year.

Critics argue the move is against Brussels' proclaimed support for energy efficiency and Europe's climate change ambitions.

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Despite his previous intention, trade commissioner Peter Mandelson on Wednesday (29 August) suggested the EU's anti-dumping measure should go in a year, rather than straight away.

"This case has once again shown the complexities of managing anti-dumping rules in a global economy and against the broad range of EU interests," Mr Mandelson stated.

The EU executive argues that a further delay on ceasing the tariffs – which add up to 66 percent on the value of bulbs - is justified by "overall community interest" to provide a sufficient transition period for European producers to prepare for it.

"We obviously want what is best for European consumers but on the basis of fair trade rules," the commission's spokesman told journalists. He maintained that the decision would not lead to higher prices as it represents a mere continuation of the current situation.

The import tariffs were imposed in 2002 to protect EU light bulb producers from the import and sale of Chinese bulbs on the EU market at below-cost price.

Mr Mandelson's intention to lift the tax came under criticism from German industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen, as well as a key German-based bulb producer Osram who had expressed concerns about possible job losses.

The commission's final decision to scrap the import duties in a year is a compromise after Mr Verheugen pressed for a two year delay of the move.

Still, critics have condemn the verdict, alleging it is wrapped up with the interests of the German company.

"British consumers will lament having to pay significantly more for their lightbulbs under the false pretence it may save a few jobs in Germany. Even German consumers will be harmed by this decision so Commissioner Verheugen cannot claim to be standing up for his national interest," said UK Conservative MEP Syed Kamall.

WWF, the global conservation organisation, said "This is narrowly protectionist and sends a regressive message to developing country producers that they will be excluded from markets for cleaner products created by the higher environmental standards expected by European consumers."

Commissioners at odds over Chinese-made light bulbs

The European Commission is heading for a tough meeting today, as its two commissioners, in charge of trade and industry, are locked in an internal struggle over whether to end import duties on low-energy light bulbs imported from China – a case also seen as a significant test of free trade.

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