Chinese woman on an e-bike

EU slaps tariffs on Chinese e-bikes in anti-dumping effort

Image credit: Dreamstime

The European Union will be imposing duties on Chinese electric bicycles (e-bikes), in part of broader battle against cheap imports to the bloc from Asia.

The tariffs vary from 21.8 to 83.6 per cent, and will be applied on all Chinese e-bikes: bicycles with integrated electric motors for propulsion in addition to pedals.

E-bikes have already exploded in popularity in China, with national sales increasing from 56,000 in 1998 to more than 21 million in 2008 as government regulations were introduced restricting the use of motorbikes in city centres. China is the world’s largest manufacturer of e-bikes.

According to the European Commission, imports of Chinese e-bikes into the EU more than tripled from 2015 to 2017 while average prices fell. The Commission found sellers guilty of dumping – selling their product below domestic prices – causing European bicycle manufacturers “material injury”.

The Commission is separately investigating whether Chinese e-bike sellers may have benefitted from inappropriate state subsidies.

The decision to apply the tariffs was greeted warmly by the European Bicycle Manufacturers Association, which brought the case to the EU. In a statement, Moreno Fioravanti, secretary-general of the European Bicycle Manufacturers Association said that the group: “applauds the European Commission’s decision to impose provisional anti-dumping measures on e-bikes imported from China, which have flooded the EU at an alarming rate and artificially low prices.”

The move is part of a broader effort to curb cheap imports from China, which include tariffs on imports of steel, ceramics and solar panels, provoking anger from Beijing. The introduction of the tariffs also comes amid escalating trade tensions between the US and China; this month the US followed up preliminary steel and aluminium tariffs with a further $34bn (£26bn) worth of tariffs on Chinese imports. Its rival economic superpower accused US of starting a trade war and responded tit-for-tat. The US and China are expected to apply a further $16bn (£12bn) of tariffs each in the near future.

The tariffs were levied months after the Trump administration opened an investigation into allegations of intellectual property theft by Chinese businesses – such as by illegally requiring intellectual property to be transferred to within China before accessing the market – which has been estimated to cost the US a staggering $600bn (£460bn) a year.

The EU – while sharing some American concerns about tech transfer practices – has been caught in the difficult position of averting a full-blown trade war between East and West while also protecting domestic industry from the impact of mass cheap imports.

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