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Beijing to end anti-dumping wine probe: ministry

BEIJING -- Beijing will end an anti-dumping inquiry into wine imports from the European Union, China's commerce ministry said Friday, after what it said was a deal between producers.

The announcement comes a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping sets off on a visit to Europe.

The ministry said in a statement that after six rounds of talks since November, Chinese and EU wine industry groups signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to "solve the dispute through cooperation."

Under the agreement, Chinese wine companies will ask authorities to end the investigations, it said.

The statement did not name the European wine organization involved, but a ministry official later told AFP that it was the Brussels-based CEEV. There was no announcement on its website and the EU Chamber of Commerce in Beijing was not able to comment immediately on any such negotiations.

The commerce ministry in July announced the anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from the EU, which were worth US$1.04 billion in 2012, according to official data.

It came after the EU imposed emergency levies on imported Chinese solar panels, with the two embroiled in a series of trade disputes.

Later in July the two announced an "amicable solution" on solar panels, which reduced the tensions and was seen as opening the way for an eventual resolution of the wine issues.

"We are happy to see industries from both sides deepen understanding through dialogue and resolve the dispute via cooperation," commerce minister Gao Hucheng said in a statement.

"We appreciate the pragmatic and flexible attitude and cooperation spirit the two sides showed in the dialogues and consultations," he said.

Under the deal, European firms will provide "technology support" and fund the introduction of grape varieties into China, training of wine makers and marketing staff, and teaching of EU testing standards and quality control methodologies, it added.

Products from the EU accounted for 65.2 percent of China's total wine imports in 2012 and 15.6 percent of the Chinese wine market, government figures showed.

France, Spain, Italy and Germany are the EU's major wine exporters, making up more than 96 percent of the bloc's total wine shipments to China, the figures showed.

European Tour

Xi Jinping embarks on his first European tour as president Saturday, starting in the Netherlands and going on to France, Germany and Belgium, where he will also visit EU headquarters.

Xi will hold summits with leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

His visit to EU headquarters in Brussels on March 31 will be the first by a Chinese president, according to the EU, whereas in the past Chinese premiers have participated in summits held in Brussels.

The 28-member EU is China's biggest trading partner, though relations have seen periodic turmoil over trade and human rights. Trade totaled US$559 billion in 2013, according to China.

"Since the resolution last year of the China-EU dispute over photovoltaic products via negotiations and consultations, China and the EU have been moving on the right track to handle trade disputes," Gao said.

The two sides "have the wisdom and capability to solve" their disagreements, he added.

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