SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's premier told a top European Union official that trade dispute over Chinese solar panel exports touches China's "major economic interests" and could influence broader Chinese-EU relations if not properly resolved.
In a phone call with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso late on Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that China is closely following the dispute, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.
China resolutely opposes trade protectionism and the abuse of trade relief measures and will uphold China's interests, the report quoted Li as saying. Li expressed hope that the dispute could be resolved through bilateral talks.
The European Commission, the EU's executive, accuses China of flooding Europe with cheap solar panels sold at below the cost of production, and intends to impose duties.
That has prompted energetic lobbying from Beijing against the move and divisions have emerged in Europe on the issue, foreshadowing a bruising internal battle over how to respond to China's trade practices.
A majority of European countries, led by Germany and Britain, oppose EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht's plans to levy tariffs of 47 percent on solar panel imports from China next month, according to a survey by Reuters.
Li previously criticised EU trade measures on solar and telecom equipment last month, saying that punitive duties would "harm others without benefiting oneself.
(Reporting by Gabriel Wildau; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)