EU trade officials have launched a fresh complaint at the World Trade Organisation over high import tariffs on wine and spirits in several Indian states.

A formal consultation with India was today (22 September) requested by the European Commission.

The move, which had been expected, follows EU frustration at import tax on wine and spirits in several Indian states. India agreed to lower "additional duty" on imports in July 2007, following an initial World Trade Organisation (WTO) case, but the EU says some states have ignored the deal.

European drinks industry bodies, which see India as a key emerging market, immediately backed the EU.

"All we are asking for is a level playing field," said Jamie Fortescue, director general of spirits body CEPS.

Both CEPS and wine trade association CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins) said in a joint statement: "The state of Maharashtra has granted a 'tax holiday' to domestically produced wines, whilst a 200% special fee is applied to imported wines. In Goa, imported wines and spirits face significantly higher internal taxes than domestic products."

Maharashtra and Goa represent half of Indian wine and spirits consumption, the two groups added.

EU exports to India are valued at an annual EUR57m (US$83m) for spirits and EUR11m for wine, they said.

Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya, owner of Scotch whisky group Whyte & Mackay, warned Europe earlier this year to be less aggressive in its approach to the dispute.