France's trade minister yesterday urged further reductions in Hong Kong's wine tax, saying he hoped to see 'progress' by the time the city hosted a major international wine expo next May. French Minister of State for Businesses and Foreign Trade Herve Novelli received no guarantees in a meeting in Hong Kong yesterday with Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma Si-hang. 'We know there have already been some significant cuts but, frankly, we expect much more,' Mr Novelli said. 'This is an important issue for us.' He said he had invited Mr Ma to a lunch in Paris to sample fine French wines. Mr Ma had said he would raise the issue but had stressed that the matter was not specifically part of his portfolio, Mr Novelli said. Alcohol duties were a political hot potato for Mr Ma's predecessor, wine buff Henry Tang Ying-yen. He eventually cut the wine duty to 40 per cent from 80 per cent in his last budget, earlier this year. Mr Novelli urged Hong Kong retailers to pass on the cuts to the city's consumers. Even as international consumption grows, France's traditional dominance of the trade is under threat from cheap New World wines. Tax cuts are widely seen as helping France by making its wine more affordable. Mr Novelli made his comments during a two-day trip to Hong Kong and Macau, part of preparations for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Beijing next month. Mr Novelli said he urged both Mr Ma and Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah to reflect France's concerns to Beijing on the need for the mainland leadership to revalue the yuan. 'It is a matter of China meeting its responsibilities on the world stage.' During his trip, Mr Sarkozy is expected to echo the theme, along with concerns over the need for better intellectual property protection. Mr Novelli said he was confident Sino-French commercial relations would accelerate after the visit.