BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Reuters) -- China's ministry of commerce sharply criticised a European Union anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese steel exports, saying the move threatened joint efforts at responding to Europe's debt crisis.
EU officials said earlier this week that they would look into whether Chinese makers of organic-coated steel had received government subsidies, warning of duties to protect European producers. The EU is already carrying out a separate anti-dumping investigation into this type of Chinese steel.
China is "intensely dissatisfied" with the EU decision, an unnamed official said in a statement posted on Thursday to the Commerce Ministry's website (www.mofcom.gov.cn), adding that using both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties against China would be a violation of World Trade Organization rules.
"With ... many European countries deeply trapped by the sovereign debt crisis, all countries should have a more open, cooperative and forgiving attitude in facing the crisis," the official said.
"Launching an anti-subsidy investigation at this time sends the wrong signal of trade protectionism that will not only cast a shadow over China-EU steel trade, but also damage China-EU efforts to respond to the crisis," the official said.
Trade between the EU and China has boomed in recent years, reaching almost 400 billion euros ($523 billion) in 2010, the latest annual data available. However, Europeans are unhappy with China's system of subsidies designed to nurture industry.
Europe's complaints against Chinese dumping range from shoes to steel fasteners. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has in the past complained that China subsidises "nearly everything", making it hard to compete.
China has said it is willing to help Europe solve its debt problem, but has so far stopped short of promising to provide funds to bail out governments or buy billions of euros of new bonds.