'Trade conflict turned business partnership!' China ends EU wine war

French wine is the clear market leader in China, and the nation's producers will be relieved that the wine dispute has been resolved

China has agreed to end its year-long investigation into subsidies on and alleged dumping of EU wine exports in a move that will relieve France in particular.

The People’s Republic announced the wine probe via its Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on June 1 2013, less than 24 hours after the EU announced tariffs on cheap Chinese solar panels that it claimed were flooding the market.

France exported 72% of the €764m* of wine that the EU sold to China in 2012, according to the European Commission, and when the trade war broke out, industry onlookers concluded that China was aiming to penalize the French, given the latter’s strong support for solar panel tariffs.

Last August the solar panel dispute was resolved, and at that time EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht and the Chinese minister of trade agreed to try and broker a solution to the wine issue.

The result was talks between the European Committee of Wine Companies (CEEV) and the Chinese Alcohol Drinks Association (CADA) from November 2013 that led to the new deal.

CEEV president ‘satisfied’ complaint withdrawn

CEEV president, Jean Marie-Barillère, said China’s complaint had always been unjustified but that he was “very satisfied” that it had been withdrawn.

He added that EU producers will now be able to pursue operations in a strategic market in fair competition with domestic wines and third country wines.

Beyond that, our business-to-business dialogue with the Chinese industry will contribute to turn a trade conflict into a strategic partnership between the EU and the Chinese industries,” Marie-Barillère added.

In exchange for terminating its investigation and withdrawing its complaint, the EU wine industry will provide technical assistance to China’s wine industry in areas including winegrowing, experimental vineyards and mechanization techniques.

Winning over Chinese wine consumers

Other areas include winemaking and quality controls, marketing approaches, wine tasting and the Geographical Indications system.

The Chinese will assist the EU by organizing wine tastings for the bloc’s producers in China and improving wine knowledge and appreciation among consumers.

De Gucht said he applauded the Chinese wine industry for withdrawing its application for anti-subsidy and anti-dumping measures.

“I expect that the case will now be formally terminated so that the EU wine industry can continue to export its quality products to China in a fair and competitive environment,” he said.

EU agriculture commission, Dacian Ciolos, said the “question mark hanging over EU wine exporters…is now clearly resolves and this is very good news”.

*EU wine exports totalled €8.865bn in 2012.

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