Li Keqiang

Premier Li Keqiang warns EU against telecoms sanctions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 May, 2013, 6:50am


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Premier Li Keqiang criticised the European Union over its plans to investigate alleged anti-competitive behaviour by Chinese makers of mobile telecommunications equipment and to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China, state media reported.

Xinhua reported late on Friday that Li had told business leaders in Switzerland such measures would "harm others without benefiting oneself".

Li is the most senior central government official to comment on the troublesome issue so far.

He began a visit to Germany late yesterday, the last leg of his maiden foreign tour since taking up his office in March.

The EU is considering whether to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China after the United States levied its own duties last year - a move fiercely opposed by Beijing.

European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said this month that he and fellow commissioners had agreed in principle to open an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy case against China, but would first seek to negotiate a solution.

China has threatened to retaliate if the EU pushes ahead with the investigation. Beijing hopes the EU will think about overall economic and trade relations between them and uphold the principles of free trade when handling the two cases, Xinhua quoted Li as saying.

The EU is China's most important trading partner, while for the EU China is second only to the United States. Chinese export of goods to the 27-member bloc totalled €290 billion (HK$2.9 trillion) last year, with €144 billion going the other way.

Before leaving Switzerland, Li announced the conclusion of negotiations on a free-trade pact with the country.

"This free-trade deal is the first between China and a continental European economy, and the first with one of the 20 leading economies of the globe," Li said after the two countries signed a preliminary agreement, paving the way for a final signing in Beijing in July.

Swiss President Ueli Maurer dubbed the agreement a "real milestone".

Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said the Swiss FTA would cover a number of new areas such as environment, labour and employment co-operation, protection of intellectual-property rights (IPR), and information exchanges on government procurement.

Jean-Daniel Pasche, the head of Switzerland's FHS watchmaking federation, said his industry was hoping to see a drop in Chinese import duties on watches - currently 12 to 16 per cent.

Xinhua reported that during a visit to Albert Einstein's residence in Bern yesterday, Li said IPR protection must be stepped up so as to rev up the passion of innovators and make sure they receive the merited returns.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters