The European Commission has gone ahead with plans to impose provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of solar panels, cells and wafers from China.

The EU executive body has decided upon a phased approach to the tariffs and says that it remains ready to discuss trade relations with Beijing and the Chinese solar industry in order to find a solution.

Initially tariffs will be set at 11.8 per cent but will rise in early August to 47.6 per cent, the "level required to remove the harm caused by the dumping to the European [solar] industry", said a statement from the Commission.

The Commission launched a nine-month investigation into allegations that Chinese companies were "dumping" goods on the European market in order to gain market share.

It concluded that the fair value of a Chinese solar panel sold to Europe should be 88 per cent higher than the price at which it is actually sold. The dumped Chinese exports exerted undue price pressure on the EU market, which had a significant negative effect on the financial and operational performance of European producers, said the Commission.

Analysts believe that the phased approach to the tariffs will delay the pain for Chinese solar companies and gives Beijing and Brussels more time to negotiate a settlement. "The Commission will find it politically difficult to impose the full 47.6 per cent tariff, even if only on a provisional basis," said IHS analysts James Goundry and Olivia Boyd in a research note.

There is also growing pressure from European governments and solar energy project developers to scrap the tariffs because they will result in higher module prices and depressed demand for solar goods in the EU, says IHS.

In May the European Commission had indicated its intention to impose tariffs ranging from 37.3 per cent to 67.9 per cent, with the higher tariffs aimed at the largest Chinese solar manufacturing companies as well as those that did not cooperate with the investigation.

The Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association has described the lower initial tariff level – which will only trim the Chinese firms’ profits – as "good news".