France Seeks Anti-Dumping Measures on Chinese EV Imports, Fuels EU Trade Conflict

The automotive industry is witnessing a surge in the import of electric vehicles (EVs) from China into the European Union (EU), causing concerns among member states. France, in particular, is pushing for anti-dumping proceedings against Chinese EV imports, which could result in punitive tariffs. Germany, however, opposes stricter trade policies due to its heavy reliance on the Chinese market and fears potential retaliation. The issue is expected to be discussed by EU leaders at the upcoming European Council summit. This blog post explores the implications of this trade conflict and its impact on various stakeholders.

The Rising Tide of Chinese EV Imports: Recent reports indicate a substantial increase in China's foreign sales of electric vehicles, with a staggering 89% growth in 2022, reaching almost 1 million vehicles. By 2025, Chinese-manufactured vehicles are projected to capture a 15% share of the EU market. A forecast by PwC suggests that China could export around 800,000 cars annually to the EU, mainly electric vehicles. Notably, only 41% of these vehicles are expected to be Western brand cars manufactured in China. Chinese companies benefit from economies of scale and superior expertise in producing lithium-ion batteries and module systems, strengthening their competitive advantage. Additionally, they have been rapidly expanding their distribution channels and logistics chains in the EU, facilitated by the EU's liberal trade policies. Presently, the EU imposes a customs tariff of 10% on vehicle imports from China, while the US applies a higher tariff of 27.5%. Conversely, cars imported to China from the EU face duties ranging from 15% to 25%.

The Clash Between France and Germany: The influx of Chinese EV imports has fueled tensions between France and Germany. France seeks to increase customs duties on these imports, as they pose a threat to the market position of French automakers like Renault and Stellantis, which primarily produce lower- and mid-range vehicles. French CEOs have expressed concerns about the Chinese vehicles' cost advantage, which is estimated to be €10,000 for cheaper models. Additionally, French brands have limited market share in China. On the other hand, the German government, influenced by German manufacturers of mid- and top-range cars, is less concerned about Chinese competition in the European market. Germany fears potential retaliation from China, which could harm German manufacturers' interests in China. Although German manufacturers are facing challenges in producing competitive electric car models, they are still heavily reliant on the Chinese market. France, however, is prepared for trade disputes with China in various sectors, including healthcare. The European Commission's chief trade enforcement officer is considering potential action against Chinese medical device imports to persuade China to liberalize the public procurement market.

Impact on European Suppliers and Market Dynamics: The surge in Chinese EV imports also poses a threat to European suppliers, especially those in Central Europe. While European manufacturers, particularly German companies, benefit from car imports into the EU from Chinese factories, their subcontractors based in the EU receive fewer orders as a result. Furthermore, Japanese manufacturers, traditionally using the UK as a production hub for the EU market, are now considering shifting their production from China to the EU. This unintentional support from Western companies is contributing to the development of China's automotive sector, enhancing economies of scale and technological competence, thereby solidifying China's position as a crucial electric vehicle production hub for both domestic and EU demand.

Subsidies and Support for Electromobility: Despite their differences in trade policy towards China, both Germany and France share a common interest in increasing subsidies for the transition to electromobility. Both countries aim to lobby for higher limits on state aid to attract investments, particularly in the areas of chips and batteries

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