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Attack on Chinese Students Is New Worry for France’s Wine Industry

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French politicians moved quickly to re-assure China after an attack on Chinese students in the Bordeaux region raised concerns about racism and threatened to tarnish Chinese investments into France's wine industry.

On Friday, six Chinese students were attacked in Hortens (30 miles from Bordeaux) by three inebriated young Frenchmen. The incident, which occurred a little after midnight, left one of the Chinese nationals, the 24-year old daughter of a politician, severely injured with a fractured nose and cheekbone after being hit by a champagne bottle in the face.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls issued a statement saying he condemned "with great severity this xenophobic act" and that the perpetrators "will have to answer to justice."

(Read more: Wine vs. Solar Panels: China Hits Back at EU)

French police were quick to arrest the suspects and the public prosecutor's office has asked for an investigation into whether the attack was racist in nature.

The incident comes at a crucial time for Sino-French relations and casts a shadow over the wine exhibition,Vinexpo, which was inaugurated on Sunday in Bordeaux. The French Agriculture Minister who attended the launch said the attack is "intolerable, unspeakable and we ought to be extremely firm on the sanctions that will be taken."

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll (R) speaks with a delegation from the Chinese Embassy in France on the sidelines of the Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux on June 16, 2013, after a group of Chinese students were attacked.
Nicolas Tucat | AFP | Getty Images
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll (R) speaks with a delegation from the Chinese Embassy in France on the sidelines of the Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux on June 16, 2013, after a group of Chinese students were attacked.

The French wine industry is already worried about possible Chinese anti-dumping measures on European wines after the European Union (EU) imposed duties on Chinese solar companies, which they accused of dumping excess supplies and hurting European solar manufacturers.

(Read more: In China, Fake European Wine More Worrying Than Tariffs)

The president of the French government's wine council, Jérome Despey, told the AFP last week that he was "very concerned about China's approach and that wine may suffer collateral damage" as a result of that trade dispute.

France supplies nearly 40 percent of the total wine imported by China in 2012 and with over 550 million euros in the balance, the French wine industry fears a significant impact from Chinese duties.

But another concern for French wine producers is the increased production from China, which became one of the top ten wine producing nations in 2011. China has also invested heavily in vineyards in France. By August 2012, an estimated 30 chateaux in the Bordeaux region had been bought by Chinese businesses and investors and an estimated 20 deals were in the pipeline.

(Read more: Chinese Snap Up Bordeaux Vineyards)

Vinexpo, the global benchmark exhibition of the wine and spirits industry, with 2,400 exhibitors from 44 countries and over 45,000 visitors from 150 countries, includes four new pavilions this year from Mexico, Turkey, Japan and China.

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