French president warns China against retaliatory trade action

French President Francois Hollande warned China on Saturday against taking retaliatory action following the European Union's decision earlier this week to impose antidumping duties on Chinese solar panels.

Speaking in Tokyo, Hollande said that trade friction between the 27-member European Union and China "needs to be solved through dialogue." He also said the European Union "has to show its flexibility" in dealing with the world's second-largest economy, but such an attitude "has a certain limit."

China on Wednesday launched an antidumping probe into wines imported from the European Union, initiating the action a day after the European Union decided to impose provisional tariffs on solar panels shipped from China, saying they are sold unfairly at prices below production cost, thereby threatening the survival of European solar panel makers.

The French president said European nations intend to work together with China, but called for unity among EU members in addressing the trade row. Countries such as Germany have taken a negative stance toward the imposition of levies on solar panel imports from China.

Referring to relations between Japan and China, strained by a territorial dispute, Hollande said France "does not want to be asked to choose" either Japan or China, reflecting the economic and strategic importance that Paris attaches to both Asian powers.

He also told a later press conference that EU leaders will discuss the trade issue with China when they gather later this month.

Meanwhile, French media reported that Hollande, at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, mistakenly offered condolences to Chinese people over the Algerian deadly hostage standoff in January, in which 10 Japanese nationals were killed.

Abe and Japanese reporters did not notice the mistake as the president's Japanese interpreter corrected it. The presidential office said Hollande was tired after a long trip.