France calls for summit over wine tax threat

WineFrance has called on the European Union to hold an emergency summit after China threatened to impose "anti-dumping" levies on wine imported from the continent.

The Chinese trade ministry announced it had begun an "anti-dumping" investigation into European wines at the request of the Chinese domestic wine industry. The announcement of what has been called a "tit-for-tat" measure came after the European Commission imposed levies on the import of Chinese solar panels.

The European Commission said that Chinese companies were unfairly undercutting rivals and selling solar panels below cost, and in so doing the firms were damaging competition. It announced levies, which come into force today, and which start at 11.8% and could rise to 47.6% in two months if no compromise could be found.

In what has been called a retaliatory move, China quickly announced its own investigations into European wine imports. "The commerce ministry has already received an application from the domestic wine industry, which accuses wines imported from Europe of entering China's market by use of unfair trade tactics such as dumping and subsidies," it said in a statement. "We have noted the quick rise in wine imports from the EU in recent years, and we will handle the investigation in accordance with the law."

The South China Morning Post reported that China's wine imports rose by 8.9% to 430m litres last year, and about 67% of that quantity came from the EU. Wine from France amounted to 170m litres last year, an increase of 11.3% on the previous year, the paper said.

The impact of so-called "anti-dumping" levies would be significant for France, whose exports to China are worth £464m. France has called on the European Union to organise a summit to discuss the escalating trade tensions between China and the continent.

"The President of the Republic expressed his desire that the European Commission take steps to organise a meeting to establish a united position of the 27 based on solidarity," French President Francois Hollande's spokesman said.

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