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Spain seeks to avert trade war after China announces pork anti-dumping probe

Cured meat products made with pork are displayed at a market stall in Rome

SANTANDER/MADRID (Reuters) -Leading EU pork exporter Spain on Monday said it was working with European Union officials to avoid damaging tariffs after Beijing said it would open an anti-dumping inquiry.

China's investigation appears mainly targeted at Spain, the Netherlands, France and Denmark, the three biggest EU exporters of pork to China.

Its announcement follows one from the European Commission last week that it would impose anti-subsidy duties on imported Chinese cars from July.

Economy Minister Carlos Cuerpo said Spain and the EU were working to find a balance that avoided a trade war while protecting its products from unfair trade practices.

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"Just as there can't be a trade war, there can't be a subsidy race either," Cuerpo, who is also Spain's trade minister, told a conference in Santander. "We are already working through the European Union to find solutions that will provide a way forward without damaging the sector."

Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said he did not expect immediate measures after China said the investigation, begun on Monday, could last more than a year.

"I hope and expect that there will be room for understanding, for negotiation, and to avoid the imposition of tariffs on agricultural and food products," Planas told reporters in Madrid.

The Spanish Pig Producers Association, Interporc, said it was confident that China's year-long investigation provided "lots of time for the EU and China to reach agreements" and said it would provide Chinese authorities with all the documentation they needed.

The investigation announced by China's commerce ministry on Monday will focus on pork for human consumption, such as fresh, cold and frozen whole cuts, as well as pig intestines, bladders and stomachs.

Spain exported 560,488 tons of pork products worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.29 billion) to China in 2023, representing 20.3% of its total pork exports by volume and 13.7% by value, according to Interporc, Spain's pork producers' association.

Spain accounts for 21% of China's total pork imports, according to Interporc.

($1 = 0.9337 euros)

(Reporting by Jesus Aguado and Emma Pinedo; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by David Latona, Ros Russell and Barbara Lewis)