European consumers will probably have to wait another year before they see the prices of energy-saving light bulbs fall, following a Commission decision to extend anti-dumping duties on imports from China rather than scrap them immediately.
The Commission announced on 29 August 2007 that it would propose maintaining anti-dumping duties as high as 66% for another year in order to allow companies to adjust to changing market conditions.
The delay appears to be a compromise between UK Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and German Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen.
The former had been pushing for an immediate end to the duties, saying that this would not only benefit consumers, but also companies such as the Dutch electronics group Philips, which outsource the production of bulbs to China.
However, Verheugen had opposed the move, claiming that it could cause job losses for Germany’s national light-bulb manufacturer Osram, as below-cost imports from China begin flowing back into the bloc (EURACTIV 29/08/07).
His arguments had apparently won a certain amount of backing from other Commissioners, as a number of member states expressed concern that Mandelson has been giving more weight to the interests of companies producing or sourcing goods in countries with cheap labour costs, such as China, than to those with production based in Europe.
Commission spokesman Johannes Leitenberger said the final decision was based on the “wider community interest…while striving to reflect the legitimate interests of all parties”.
“The EU has made efficient energy use and conservation a key priority. The EU is likely to be able to meet only 25% of its demand for energy saving light bulbs through domestic production. In the Commission’s judgement it is not in the community interest in these circumstances to be adding a significant additional cost to the price of imported products,” the EU executive explained in a statement.
However, the global conservation organisation WWF said that the proposal was “disappointing, unfair and seriously inconsistent with the ambitious EU targets to improve energy efficiency in Europe and to curb climate change”.
“With a rapid switch to more efficient lamps, 23 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved per year, equivalent to 0.5% of EU greenhouse gas emissions,” it said, pointing to the fact that the high prices of power-saving light bulbs – currently three to six times more expensive than traditional ones – have deterred consumers from making the shift, so that 80% of households still use ordinary bulbs.
Member states will now have one month to consider the Commission’s proposal.