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China launches anti-dumping probe into imported EU pork as trade tensions grow

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  • China's Ministry of Commerce said the investigation was officially launched on Monday and is expected to conclude within 12 months, though it could be extended for a further six months.
  • The probe, initiated by domestic industry group, the China Animal Agriculture Association, will cover anti-dumping accusations on common pork imports in the country.
  • The move comes as Beijing pushes back against new EU tariffs placed on Chinese electric vehicle imports.

Beijing has launched an anti-dumping investigation aimed at certain pork products from the European Union, days after the Brussels raised tariffs on Chinese vehicles. 

China's Ministry of Commerce announced Monday it had opened an investigation into imported pork and its by-products originating from the EU, including pork offal, pig fat, pig intestines, bladders, and stomachs. 

The investigation is expected to conclude within 12 months, though it could be extended for a further six months, the ministry said.

The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said the EU pork investigation was Beijing's retaliation for recent tariffs on Chinese EVs.

"It will not be the first time that a probe announced in one jurisdiction is responded to in kind, so in view of the EU EV probe this is not a surprise," a spokesperson said in a statement sent to CNBC. 

In response to questions, a Chinese commerce ministry official said the probe was first initiated by a formal complaint by a domestic industry group, the China Animal Agriculture Association.

An investigating authority determined that the request met the criteria for launching an investigation in accordance with Chinese and World Trade Organization laws, the official added.

A copy of the complaint shared by the Ministry of Commerce accused the EU's pork industry of creating overcapacity and benefiting from large subsidies, which it said has impacted China's domestic pork industry.

The wording of the application mirrored similar charges from western officials and industry recently aimed at China's electric vehicle and solar exports.

Last week, the European Commission announced it would slap additional anti-subsidy duties of up to 38% on imported Chinese cars following an investigation.

John Keeble | Getty Images News | Getty Images
"Iberian ham" a variety of jamón or presunto, a type of cured leg of pork hanging in the Central Market of Atarazanas food market in Malaga, Spain. 

In May, the U.S. slapped a 100% tariff on Chinese EV imports, up from 25% duties previously. Chinese solar cells saw import tax double — from 25% to 50%, while duties on Chinese steel and aluminum increased three-fold.

Beijing criticized the EU's move, with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson saying Thursday that Beijing would take "all measures necessary" to defend its trade interests as well as WTO rules and market principles. 

Meanwhile, the announcement of the probe has triggered concern from the EU's pork industry, with China representing one of the largest markets in the world. 

The Danish Agriculture and Food Council told Reuters its industry would be hit hard if China restricts imports of European meat. 

Meanwhile, Spain — the EU's biggest pork exporter to China — called for EU officials to find a quick solution to avert damaging tariffs, the report added.

CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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