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25th Jun 2017

EU states divided over energy saving light bulbs

  • A 13-watt compact fluorescent light is equal to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, generating the same amount of light with less power (Photo: EUobserver)

EU member states are divided over a European Commission plan to end special import duties on Chinese energy-saving light bulbs, put in place five years ago after it was found that China was selling the product in Europe below production cost.

A small majority of EU government officials meeting in Brussels on Thursday (26 July) gave initial backing to the plan to drop the anti-dumping duties.

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Among the ten states in favour of dropping the duties were free trade supporting countries like Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Nine member states, led by Germany, were against the move.

The remaining eight said they needed more time to consider the plan.

The duties, which are up to 66.1 percent of the production price, have been in force since February 2001 and will expire on 15 October unless renewed.

"The Commission is going to propose the suspension of that tax," Commission trade spokesman Peter Power said on Thursday, explaining that the EU executive will make its actual proposal in the coming months. Member states representatives in the anti-dumping advisory committee are expected to make a final decision in early September.

Germany's Osram - one of Europe's leading light bulb makers - has pushed for the duties to stay in place although a part of the company's production comes from China.

Philips, another light bulb producer based in the Netherlands, has a larger part of its production in China and wants the duties axed.

"It is a question of commercial competition," Mr Power said, adding that "Osram is seeking to continue anti-dumping measures because they hit Philips proportionally harder."

Two other energy saving light bulb manufacturers in Europe - GE and Sylvania - also oppose the continuation of the duties.

Lower prices versus jobs

The plan to axe the duties could mean that energy saving light bulbs would become cheaper for consumers in Europe and help the bloc reach its climate change goals, set in February this year, to make an energy efficiency saving of 20 percent by 2020 and also to cut CO2 emissions by at least 20 percent in the same time period.

But there are also concerns that cheaper light bulbs from China could have an effect on the industry in Europe and lead to job losses.

"We have to look at both sides," commission industry spokesman Ton van Lierop told EUobserver. EU industry commissioner Guenther Verheugen will make up his mind on the issue in the autumn, he said.

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