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EU says deal with China key to fight fake wine

(BEIJING) - The EU commissioner for agriculture said Tuesday an agreement with Beijing to battle counterfeits would likely be signed in September, adding the deal was key for the region's wine and spirit sector.

"I think that in September we will be able to sign a protocol of cooperation on the fight against counterfeiting," Dacian Ciolos told reporters on a trip to Beijing.

"This is important especially for our wines and spirits. It's our most important part of exports (of agricultural products) from Europe to the Chinese market."

China is home to the biggest market of counterfeits -- including wine -- in the world, and despite repeated government pledges to root out fake goods, these are still widely available throughout the country.

This illegal market has had a significant impact on European winemakers, including on French vintages -- and particularly Bordeaux wineries that have a good reputation in China.

Exports of European wine and spirits to China come to more than one billion euros ($1.2 billion) annually, and it is estimated that counterfeiting causes some hundreds of millions of euros in losses.

Counterfeit bottles of Bordeaux's Chateau Lafite wine -- hugely popular in China where it embodies French tradition and sophistication -- are particularly rife.

According to Romain Vandevoorde, a wine importer in Beijing, "there is more Lafite 1982 in China than was produced in France".

On Tuesday, Chang Xiaocun, an official at China's commerce ministry, said authorities in Shanghai had recently seized more than 4,000 fakes bottles of Chateau Lafite.

"There is a judicial and legal framework in China in order to deal with (counterfeiting)," Ciolos said.

"From our institutional side, we want to be sure that this legal framework really exists and that it is efficient in terms of fight against counterfeiting," he added.

"We will also give technical assistance to Chinese institutions in order to be able to deal with these issues."

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