CHINA'S solar equipment manufacturers are warning of a trade war and urging the government to start talks with the European Union after European competitors filed an anti-dumping complaint about Chinese products.

On Wednesday, European solar companies led by Germany's SolarWorld asked the EU to investigate allegations that Chinese companies had been selling products at below market price in Europe, the world's largest solar market, seeking tariffs on Chinese panels.

The request was by the EU ProSun group, which has 25 members in Germany, Spain, Italy and other EU countries.

German solar module maker Sovello is also a member, according to Reuters.

"This could trigger a whole-scale trade war between China and the EU, which would cause huge losses to both parties," according to a statement by four Chinese panel makers - Yingli Green Energy, Suntech Power, Trina Solar and Canadian Solar.

SolarWorld launched a similar initiative in the United States that led the Obama administration to impose preliminary duties on Chinese imports in May.

In response, China last week began an anti-dumping investigation into imported US polysilicon, which is used to make solar cells.

"We call on the Chinese government to take all necessary and resolute measures to protect the legitimate interests of China's solar industry," Wang Yiyu, Yingli's chief strategy officer, said.

China, the world's largest solar panel maker, exported US$35.8 billion worth of products last year, 60 percent of which were shipped to the EU, according to the Chinese companies.

Europe accounted for 74 percent of global solar installations in 2011, according to industry association EPIA.

Europe's solar industry, already hit by austerity measures amid the sovereign debt crisis, could lose more jobs along the whole supply chain of the solar industry if duties were slapped on Chinese imports, the Chinese companies said.

The European Union now has 45 days in which to decide whether to launch an investigation.


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