BEIJING, June 6 (UPI) -- China, amid rising trade disputes with the European Union, began a probe into EU wine imports after the bloc announced duties on Chinese solar panels.
The probe announcement was made by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, which earlier said it "firmly opposes" the 27-nation EU's Tuesday decision to levy anti-dumping tariffs on China's solar panel products. The EU duties would be imposed in two stages -- 11.8 percent in the first two months followed by 47.6 percent in the next four months.
The EU action came after a nine-month anti-dumping investigation.
"Those Chinese companies which have cooperated will face lower tariffs. Those which have not cooperated will face higher tariffs," said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
The official China Daily, citing official figures, said China's wine imports from the European Union rose by 8.9 percent to 430 million liters in 2012, valued at about $2.57 billion. The EU accounted for more than two-thirds of Chinese imports, with France being the biggest exporter from the bloc.
The Chinese government said the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into EU wines was at the request of Chinese wine manufacturers. The Commerce Ministry said the country's wine producers had filed their petition last year, calling for probes into the EU's alleged dumping of wine that received unfair government subsidies.
The EU currently is China's largest trading partner, with Chinese exports totaling about $377 billion last year. Chinese solar panel exports are worth about $27 billion.
China had mounted a major official effort to convince the EU against going ahead with its decision on the solar panels. During his visit to Germany late last month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expressed strong opposition not only to any punitive duties on Chinese solar panels but also to the 27-nation EU conducting a trade probe into Chinese mobile telecommunications products.
Li's message to Europe was China seeks more cooperation and less protectionism. China's official Xinhua News Agency in a commentary said, "By playing up to protectionist forces, Brussels is risking a tit-for-tat trade war with Beijing, which would in no way stand idly by."
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that besides retaliatory duties on EU wines, China may also consider import tariffs on EU-made polysilicon, a key raw material in making solar cells, which could affect a major German producer of the material.