France urges EU to stop spat with China over wine

France urges EU to stop spat with China over wine
A waitress inspects a wine glass in Hainan, China. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP
France has implored its EU neighbours to deal with a brewing trade impasse with China, which has responded to the EU's curbing of solar panel imports with a probe into European wine exports to China, a key emerging market for French vineyards.

France on Wednesday called on its European Union partners to quickly agree a united response to China's decision to open an anti-dumping probe into wine imports from Europe.

The Chinese move, ordered in retaliation for the EU's imposition of anti-dumping duties on solar panel imports from China, has raised fears of a broader trade war between the world's biggest trading bloc and the Asian superpower.

"The President of the Republic expressed his desire that the European Commission take steps to organize a meeting to establish a united position of the 27 (member states) based on solidarity," French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet meeting.

As the biggest exporter of wine to the fast-growing Chinese market, France has most to lose should China proceed with a move to impose anti-dumping duties on imports from the EU.

Establishing a common EU stance on the issue may prove difficult however.

While France supported the imposition of punitive duties on Chinese solar panels, the move was opposed by Germany, China's biggest trade partner in Europe.

German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler on Wednesday called for dialogue rather than confrontation with China and reiterated that Berlin regarded the decision on solar panels as a "serious mistake."

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said there was no justification for China's move, insisting that EU producers did not benefit from any export subsidies.

"We have to stay calm," Le Foll added.

"Discussions are underway between Europe and China. We have to be able to find the necessary coherence to retain a simple objective: Europe cannot remain open unless a certain number of social and environmental rules are respected and without rules to avoid dumping.

"I understand the concern (of winemakers) because China is a major country where we have an extremely big and important presence."

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