EU tariffs on Chinese EVs opposed across Europe

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This file photo taken on June 6, 2024 shows an electric car at a charging station near the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. [Photo/Xinhua]

The European Commission on Wednesday revealed a list of protectionist duties it would levy on imports of battery electric vehicles (EVs) from China, sparking opposition and concerns from governments and businesses across Europe.

The provisional duties envisaged by the Commission on the imports of EVs from China would range from 17.4 percent to 38.1 percent.

Hungarian Minister for National Economy Marton Nagy condemned the move as overly protectionist. He said in a statement that "protectionism is not the solution," and the Commission's decision would unfairly discriminate against Chinese manufacturers and disrupt market competition, which had been vital for the European Union (EU).

Nagy pointed out the focus of the EU should be on enhancing the global competitiveness of the European EV industry, instead of imposing punitive tariffs, since such a move would stifle competition and hinder the growth of the EU market.

Volker Wissing, Germany's federal minister for Digital and Transport, said tariffs would affect German companies and their exports. "Vehicles must become cheaper through more competition, open markets and significantly better location conditions in the EU, not through trade wars and market isolation," he said on the social media platform X.

The EU's high additional tariffs would further deviate from the goals of global cooperation and could quickly have a negative impact in the event of a trade conflict. The potential fallout originating from these measures may be greater than their potential benefits for the European -- as well as the German -- automotive industry, Hildegard Mueller, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, told Xinhua in a written interview.

"The fact is that we need China to solve global problems, which applies, in particular, to successfully tackling the climate crises," Mueller said, stressing China's role in the transition towards electromobility and the digitalization of the global automotive industry.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse criticized the Commission's plan as "the wrong way to go," stating that it would damage European companies and interests. "Protectionism risks starting a spiral: Tariffs lead to new tariffs, to isolation rather than cooperation," he said.

Other major German carmakers including Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen also voiced their support for fair competition and free world trade, reported German media Handelsblatt. Europe's largest vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen rejected the planned tariffs, saying that "the negative effects of this decision outweigh any benefits for the European and especially the German automotive industry."

The Swedish government wants to know whether the European Commission has exhausted other options besides tariffs, Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell said. "We are generally skeptical of tariffs. Someone has to pay them, and in this case, it will sooner or later be the consumers," the Swedish TT news agency cited Forssell as saying.

The multinational carmaker Stellantis, in response to the EU announcement, also expressed its position by advocating free and fair competition in a global business environment and opposing measures that lead to "the fragmentation of the world." The company said through its affordable EVs and cooperation with Chinese electric carmaker Leapmotor, it has confidence in competing with Chinese products that have price advantages.

Hrvoje Prpic, president of the Croatian Electric Vehicle Drivers Association, said the high tariffs would fail to help European industry keep up the pace of Chinese car manufacturers, and moreover, the end users in Europe would front the increased cost.

"Businesses must be open, and tariffs are not beneficial for business exchanges," said Pavol Antalic, chairman of the Slovak-Chinese Joint Business Council. Recognizing the level of cooperation with Chinese companies in developing green energy, the Slovak business leader praised China's technological advancements in developing electric cars with excellent batteries and said "local customers are very interested in Chinese EVs."

As a non-EU member state, Norway said it will not follow the EU to increase tariffs on Chinese electric cars. The country's Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum announced the decision on Wednesday. "Introducing tariffs on Chinese cars is neither relevant nor desirable for this government," Norwegian national broadcaster NRK cited Vedum as saying.

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