France: we may refer Moscow to WTO over champagne row

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the WTO in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the World Trade Organization headquarters (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

July 6, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s government said on Tuesday it may refer Russia to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over Moscow’s plans to force champagne producers to add the designation “sparkling wine” to their products sold in Russia.

Moscow has adopted legislation requiring the “sparkling wine” label be added to bottles of foreign fizz, while Russian producers of the local version, “shampanskoye,” do not have to add the label.

Some French producers — who assert that only products from France’s Champagne region should sold as champagne — interpreted the legislation as an effort to benefit Russian winemakers at their expense.

“Once we have considered (the Russian legislation), we will act in the coming days in respect of the Russian authorities,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a session of parliament.

“If by chance there are proven violations of the rules of the World Trade Organisation, we will seek recourse in the way we have previously envisaged to do with Russia,” Le Drian said.

But he added: “I hope that we will be able to resolve these difficulties through dialogue.”

The WTO has a mechanism for resolving trade disputes between member states.

(Reporting by Sophie Louet; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Peter Graff)