China has commenced anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into European wine, following yesterday’s announcement of preliminary duties on Chinese solar imports into the EU.

The investigation will affect France, Italy and Spain in particular – countries who voted in support of solar duties, prompting speculation of a Chinese retaliation against individual EU member states.

China imported 430 million litres of wine last year, of which more than two-thirds came from the EU, according to Chinese customs figures.

On Tuesday the European Commission announced duties of 11.8% to be imposed on all Chinese solar panel imports for two months. As of 6 August, the average tariff will rise to 47.6% in order to allow “a smooth transition for our markets to adapt”, said EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht. “It is a one-time offer to the Chinese side, providing a very clear incentive to negotiate,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) spokesman Shen Danyang said that low tariffs showed the EU’s sincerity in wanting to solve this through dialogue, reported PV-Tech China.

However, despite MOFCOM’s show of acceptance behind the commission’s decision, it has launched a similar probe into imported wine originating from the EU entering the Chinese market.

An official at the Bureau of Fair Trade said: “China's use of trade remedy measures have been cautious. We note that in recent years, the number of wine imports from the EU has a faster rate of growth than the domestic wine industry.”

Danyang said China still considers the solar duties “unfair” and expressed his opposition to them.

The spokesman stressed that China attaches great importance to China-EU strategic partnership.

“Economic and trade relations are an important foundation for China-EU relations, the Chinese do not want to see the photovoltaic industry trade frictions affect the overall situation of China-EU relations.”

De Gucht yesterday was clear in his denouncement of what he believed to be Chinese illegal trade practices, claiming it would jeopardise 25,000 jobs.

“The simple question we have been asked to examine is whether Chinese companies are dumping solar panels which end up being sold at lower price than it costs to produce them in the first place.

“The answer is simple: yes – Chinese companies are dumping their underpriced solar panels on Europe. Our estimate of the fair sale price of a Chinese solar panel would actually be 88% higher than the current price for which they are sold on the European market,” said de Gucht.