At the Bordeaux and Aquitaine Wine Festival in Wuhan, central China
Marie-Josée Cougard

BEIJING â€" Beijing recently announced that it would start to recognize a selection of French wines in China, a country where counterfeiting of prominent French wine brands is common.

The announcement, made at the G20 agricultural ministers meeting in China, is a victory for France. China will now recognize 45 Bordeaux wines that have the prestigious French AOC certification.

"This recognition gives us additional means to defend these names before a Chinese court," says Stéphane Le Foll, the French minister of agriculture.

French wines are not only counterfeited because of their international prestige but also because of their steep prices â€" a result of taxes that can be as high as 48%. Although wine from other parts of the world can be duty free, they are not as desirable as French brands.

"There are more counterfeited French wines in China than non-counterfeited ones, and the situation is getting worse. Importers and distributors of wines and spirits make the majority of counterfeited goods to lower their selling price," notes a detailed French foreign ministry trade report published in May last year.

Online shopping has further boosted counterfeits. "In two clicks counterfeited wines can enter homes. The internet changed the industry enormously by allowing wines to reach a larger audience of potential buyers," says one French wine expert, adding that buyers often purchase wines from popular Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, where they unwittingly end up with counterfeited bottles.

At Guangdong's International Wine & Spirits Expo â€" Photo: Chen Yehua/Xinhua/ZUMA

After receiving numerous complaints, the Chinese government publicly denied the level of counterfeiting on Alibaba in 2015, saying the number of fakes being described was too high.

An ongoing struggle

Counterfeiting wines is a lucrative business. An executive at Moët-Hennessy, a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate, says that "the more expensive a good is, the more it is counterfeited."

The problem is so prevalent that exporting businesses have initiated strong measures against fraudulent practices.

"We must always be one step ahead and be constantly alert to stop fraudsters," says Mathieu Prot, director of intellectual property at Pernod-Richard, a French beverage company that has instituted a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to fraudulent activity.

Prot says the company, which has been more active than others on tackling fakes, has improved its credibility and image with measures such as having its own network of investigators and "raiding about 10,000 Chinese vendors every year." He adds that the company also has a law firm dedicated to "presenting fraudsters before Chinese courts."

None of the groups contacted by Les Echos revealed the exact cost of the fight against counterfeiting, but they all acknowledged the magnitude of the problem. France exported 180 million wine bottles and 31 million bottles of spirits to China in 2015, worth 513 million euros ($578 million) and 319 million euros ($359 million) respectively.

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Boris Johnson tells France — not so eloquently — to prenez un grip

Bertrand Hauger


PARIS — I'll admit it straight away: As a bilingual journalist, the growing use of Franglais by French politicians makes my skin crawl.

Not because I think this blend of French and English is a bad thing in and of itself (it is!), or because the purity of the French language should be preserved at all costs (it should!) — but because in a serious context, it is — at best — a distraction from the substance at hand. And at worst, well …

But in France, where more and more people speak decent English, Anglo-Saxon terms are creeping in everywhere, and increasingly in the mouths of politicians who think they're being cool or smart.

Not that long ago, Emmanuel Macron was dubbed "the Franglais president" after tweeting "La démocratie est le système le plus bottom up de la terre" ...

Oh mon dieu

They call it Frenglish

It is much rarer when the linguistic invasion goes in the other direction, with far fewer English-speaking elected officials, or their electors, knowing more than a couple of words of French. (The few Brits who use it call it Frenglish)

Imagine then my horror last night watching British Prime Minister Boris Johnson berating France over the recent diplomatic clash surrounding the AUKUS submarine deal, cheekily telling UK media from Washington: "I just think it's time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break."

Cringe. Eye roll. Facepalm.
Here's the clip, in case you haven't had your morning cup of awkward.
Grincement de dents. Yeux au ciel. Tête entre les mains.

First, let me offer a quick French lesson: Sorry, BoJo, you needed the "infinitif" form here: "It's time for [us] to prendre un grip about this and me donner un break."

But that, of course (bien sûr), is not the point in this particular moment. Instead, this would-be bon mot is not just sloppy and silly, it is incredibly patronizing, particularly when discussing a multi-billion deal that sparked a deep diplomatic crisis in the Western alliance.

The colorful British politician is, alas, no stranger to verbal miscalculations and linguistic gaffes. He's also (Brexit, anyone?) not necessarily one who cares about preserving relationships with longstanding partners. This time, combining the two, even for such a shameless figure as Mr. Johnson, only one word came to my bilingual brain: Vraiment?

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