Most EU states oppose Chinese solar panel duties: diplomats

BRUSSELS Mon May 27, 2013 8:50am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A majority of EU governments oppose the European Commission's plans to levy prohibitive duties on solar panel imports from China, a survey of member states by Reuters showed on Monday, weakening Brussels' efforts to pressure Beijing.

The European Commission is set to impose duties averaging 47 percent in place from June 6, but the sanctions are provisional and EU trade chief Karel De Gucht is seeking a negotiated solution with the Chinese government.

The EU's 27 countries had until Friday to submit a written response to De Gucht's plans to go ahead with the duties, in a non-binding vote that nonetheless has a strong bearing on the Commission's room for maneuver.

Fearful of losing business in China, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are among a group of at least 14 member states who oppose the measures, diplomats told Reuters during a survey of countries' positions.

France and Italy are meanwhile leading a small group of countries who say De Gucht is right to go ahead with sanctions.

The vote underscores the division in the European Union on how to deal with China at a time when the bloc needs Beijing to buy its goods but accuses its second largest trading partner of undercutting EU companies with subsidized exports.

(Reporting by Luke Baker, Ethan Bilby, Robin Emmott and Phil Blenkinsop; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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