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China agrees to talks on French wine dispute, EU says

A visitor walks past wine bottles displayed at Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine fair, in Bordeaux, southwestern France, June 18, 2013. REUT
A visitor walks past wine bottles displayed at Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine fair, in Bordeaux, southwestern France, June 18, 2013. REUT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - China and the European Union have agreed there is a "window for discussions" to try to resolve accusations that Europe is dumping wine in China, the EU's trade chief said on Monday.

The agreement is part of a deal announced at the weekend to defuse a row over dumping of Chinese solar panels in Europe, the biggest trade dispute yet between the two economies.

Responding to the EU's initial plan to impose punitive duties on solar panels, China launched an anti-dumping inquiry into European wine sales, which would lead to retaliatory duties on exporters in France, Spain and Italy.

"There is a window for discussions between the European Union and Chinese (wine) producers," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told a news conference. "The Chinese government has promised to facilitate such discussions," he said.

EU and Chinese diplomats expect the wine dispute, as well as another conflict over EU exports of polysilicon - a raw material for solar panels - to be dropped as a goodwill gesture.

China is the world's biggest importer of Bordeaux wines and consumption soared 110 percent in 2011 alone.

China's commerce ministry could not confirm any freeze to the EU wine investigation, the website associated with the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily reported on Monday, citing an unnamed official.

A lawyer representing the Chinese industry association that filed the wine complaint said the firm had not received any notice on the freezing of the probe, the website www.people.com.cn said.

"The relevant investigation is still proceeding regularly," Yao Fengwen, a lawyer with Bo Heng (Beijing B&H Associates) law firm, told the site.

Germany's Wacker Chemie is the world's second biggest maker of polysilicon and would be hurt by any tariffs in China.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft, Robin Emmott and Claire Davenport in Brussels and Michael Martina in Beijing)

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