Belgian chocolates and the trade spat souring EU-China relations...
Belgians are justly proud of their nation’s reputation as one of the world's finest chocolate producers. So when Chinese authorities announced this week that they had destroyed an unspecified amount of their chocolates because they contained toxic substances, alarm bells rang.
The Belgian media was swift to point out echoes of 2008, when Beijing declared a shipment of Belgian chocolate “not suitable for human consumption”. That snub was widely seen as tit-for-tat retaliation after the Brussels-based European Union banned Chinese soy-bean imports over high levels of toxic substances. Could it be coincidence that the latest trashing of the national delicacy comes as the EU pursues import tariffs on Chinese solar panels, local newspapers asked?
While the link between the discarded chocolates and the solar panels has yet to advance beyond conspiracy theory, it is not too far-fetched given the other signature European products including French wine and German cars already dragged into a trade spat souring EU-China relations and on the agenda at EU trade ministers' talks on Friday.
The alleged bout of recent score-settling began earlier this month, when the EU said it was going to impose tariffs of up to 47 per cent on solar panels made in China. The bloc accused China of “dumping” the panels in Europe – a trade term for selling a product for less than the production cost in an attempt to corner the market.
Within days, the Chinese announced that they were launching their own investigation into the sale of French wine in China, now the biggest export market for Bordeaux. The commerce ministry argued the agricultural subsidies handed out to French farmers put domestic producers at an unfair disadvantage.
Next to take a hit were German car makers. The Financial Times reported last week that Beijing was mulling a lodging a complaint over imports of luxury cars – another growth market in the booming Chinese economy.
“They are picking products for which China is an im
China's President Xi Jinping, left, stands alongside Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto at an agreement signing ceremony in Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Xi is in Mexico for a 3-day visit, where he has said he plans to discuss ways to increase Mexican exports to China. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)