Irish pork and dairy exports to China could be in the firing line amid escalating trade tensions between Brussels and Beijing.

There are mounting fears that China will hit back at European agri-produce if the EU imposes increased import duties on Chinese-manufactured electric cars.

The European Commission is currently investigating the Chinese electric car industry, following complaints from EU manufacturers that the Asian state is subsidising its industry.

The Chinese media reported last week that the local auto industry had called on the Beijing government to open an anti-dumping investigation into some pork imports from the EU.

Chinese car manufacturers have also sought increased tariffs on imported EU vehicles.


Ramping up the rhetoric, the Chinese minister of commerce, Wang Wentao, accused the EU of firing “three arrows of protectionism” – a reference to three ongoing Commission investigations – at China.

Wang was speaking at a meeting in Barcelona last week of the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU (CCCEU), which represents Chinese-owned companies and business interests in Europe.

“We will take all measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises,” Wang told CCCEU members.

While Irish dairy sector officials said they were monitoring developments, they pointed out that Ireland was not as exposed as it had been to the Chinese market.

Irish exports of infant formula to China have dropped significantly over the decade as the birth rate in the Asian giant collapsed, one industry source pointed out.

Irish dairy exports to China were worth €420m last year, or 6% of total exports.

Pigmeat exports to China were worth €106m in 2023. This is back from €122m in 2022 and €200m in 2020.