UPDATE 1-China welcomes EU decision on solar panel import prices

(Updates with details of minimum price reductions)

BEIJING, Sept 18 (Reuters) - China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Monday a European Union move to reduce the minimum price imposed on imported Chinese solar panels as a “positive step” and that it hoped that duties would end as soon as possible.

The EU announced on Sept. 16 that it would progressively reduce the minimum prices that Chinese solar panel makers are allowed to sell their products for in Europe. The prices will be cut every three months, first on Oct 1 and finally on July 1 next year.

Chinese companies that sell below these set minimum prices are subject to import duties of up to 64.9 percent.

EU member states cleared an 18-month extension of import duties on Chinese solar panels in February. The European Commission said at the time that it envisaged a gradual phase-out of the duties over the period.

China’s ministry said that it hoped the EU. would terminate all anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs against Chinese solar panel imports as soon as possible.

The European Union faces a delicate balancing act between the interests of EU manufacturers and of reducing the cost of solar power generation, while also being concerned about the response from Beijing, seen as a possible ally in fights against protectionism and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU and China came close to a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of dumping against Chinese solar panel exporters.

The minimum price reduction has been attacked by both sides. EU panel manufacturers say it will kill jobs in the sector, while EU importers and others in the industry say it will not cut prices enough. (Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Greg Mahlich)