France sees EU-China deal over wine trade dispute

Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:59am EST

* Chinese probe seen as retaliation over solar panel dispute

* Dispute remains thorn in Franco-Chinese trade relations

PARIS Feb 24 (Reuters) - Europe and China are moving towards a compromise over a Chinese investigation into alleged European wine dumping, French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq said on Monday.

Beijing opened the inquiry last July into whether Europe was selling wine in China at unfairly low prices.

The move is widely seen in Europe as retaliation over EU efforts to hit Chinese solar panels with punitive import duties. However, the solar panels dispute was resolved the same month, and Beijing has pressed ahead with the wine probe, saying it is a separate issue.

China has also said it is open to negotiate on the case.

France, the world's biggest wine producer by value, has in the past called China's decision to consider duties on French wine to be "inappropriate and reprehensible".

Paris is therefore eager to see the probe called off, as it remains a thorn in trade relations between the two countries ahead of a visit next month by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the French capital.

"I am particularly happy to be able to say that we are on the right path towards a compromise on the probe into wine," Bricq told a joint news conference with Chinese Commerce Minister Gua Hucheng in Paris.

"The constructive dialogue between European and Chinese industry officials should allow for a good compromise," she added.

Without specifically mentioning the wine probe, the Chinese minister said he and Bricq had addressed problems in Franco-China trade relations and said agreements would be reached.

EU wine exports to China excluding Hong Kong, which EU officials say was not covered by the investigation, reached 257 million litres in 2012 for a value of nearly $1 billion. More than half came from France. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Callus)

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