China hits back at EU wine over solar panel duties
By Terril Yue Jones
BEIJING (Reuters) - China took aim on Wednesday at exports of the European wines favored by its growing middle class, responding to an EU move to impose anti-dumping duties of Chinese solar panels as tensions rise between two of the world's biggest trade partners.
In a step targeting southern European states such as France and Italy that back duties but largely sparing northern countries such as Germany that oppose them, Beijing launched an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy inquiry into sales of European wine.
The European Union will impose duties on imports of Chinese solar panels from Thursday, but has dramatically reduced the initial rate after pressure from some large member states led by Berlin in the hope of negotiating a settlement with Beijing.
China's Commerce Ministry said the EU penalties were imposed despite Beijing making great efforts and showing enormous sincerity in trying to resolve the matter through talks.
"The European side still obstinately imposed unfair duties on Chinese imports of solar panels," the ministry said in a statement on its website (www.mofcom.gov.cn).
China's newly well-to-do, whose ranks are growing as fast as the economy, have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for European wines, especially those from France which make up more than half the total. China is now the biggest importer of Bordeaux wines where consumption soared 110 percent in 2011 alone.
France's trade ministry condemned the Chinese move as "inappropriate and reprehensible", accusing Beijing of opening a new front in an unrelated area. French President Francois Hollande called for a meeting of the 27 EU member states to show solidarity on trade issues, a government spokeswoman said.
In a more cautious reaction, German Economics Minister Philipp Roesler renewed Berlin's call for a negotiated solution and warned of the danger of wider trade confrontation. Continued...