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LEVA and electric bike importers call for an end to Chinese e-bike ‘dumping’ investigation

Importers of electric bikes have come together to call for an end to the EU’s current dumping investigation into electric bikes imported from China.

The EBMA (European Bicycle Manufacturers Association) initially lodged an anti-dumping complaint in September, alleging that Chinese e-bike imports were being sold in the EU at excessively low prices with the help of unfair subsidies, resulting in the launch of an investigation by the European Commission last month.

As a result, restrictive trade measures could be imposed on imported Chinese electric bikes if the investigation can establish that Chinese imports can be both classed as ‘dumped’ and those imports have caused ‘injury’ to the EU electric bike industry.

The EBMA’s complaint alleges “a negative impact on the quantities sold, the level of prices charged and the market share held by the Union Industry.”

Moreno Fioravanti of the EBMA said “We strongly welcome the European Commission investigation into the dumping of Chinese e-bikes, which are flooding the EU at an alarming rate and artificially low prices. EBMA has also asked the European Commission for the immediate registration of Chinese e-bike imports, which will allow EU anti-dumping duties to be imposed retroactively, and will shortly file an anti-subsidy complaint.”

Fiorvanti says the EBMA are “firm believers in free trade, but trade must also be fair.. Chinese e-bike exporters, on the other hand, benefit from massive subsidies from government bodies at every level in China. Those subsidies have encouraged enormous e-bike manufacturing overcapacities, which are then dumped in the EU.”

The EBMA says more than 430,000 Chinese e-bikes were sold in the EU in 2016, a 40% rise compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile a statement from LEVA (Light Electric Vehicle Association) this week reports that a collective of 21 importers of electric bikes from 7 EU member states are calling for the European Commission to terminate their case against Chinese e-bikes.

LEVA’s statement cites the disadvantages of shrinking competition as a reason for its support to the collective group of importers, who in turn cite grave concerns about the future of their businesses if the EU decides to press ahead in imposing anti-dumping duties on electric bikes imported from China.

“The reason why the Collective submits an extensive counter-argumentation is because the group believes that it is exactly [the] potential anti-dumping duties that cause a threat of injury, more specifically injury to the European electric bike market and therefore to the European citizens.”

LEVA have also called into question the choice of data used by the EBMA to build a case for imposing anti-dumping tariffs. ‘Injury evidence’ – statistical support for the EBMA’s case for loss of trade to EU producers of electric bikes – would cover a period showing growing demand that will make proving injury difficult, says the organization.

“In the considered period, electric bike consumption in the EU increased by 55%. Growing demand resulted in sales for both the EU producers and importers to go up. Sales by EU producers supporting the complaint increased by 45% in the period considered. Furthermore, employment in EU industry also improved: with 9% in 2015 and with almost 12% in 2016.”

Also highlighted by LEVA’s statement is the issue of what the EBMA call “polluted” Eurostat import figures. Without identification coding specific to e-bikes, several other products such as hoverboards are also grouped under the same import code as electric bikes, thereby clouding the ability to reliably count imported electric bike numbers.

LEVA says: “The Collective fails to understand why EBMA, although aware of these illegal trade practices for more than 3 years, has taken no action whatsoever against them.”

According to LEVA, the anti-dumping complaint holds “19 references to Bosch and 17 to Bafang” leading the organization to further explain “Bafang is accused at length of, among other things, subsidization without any evidence being produced. Apart from the fact that subsidization allegations do not belong in an anti-dumping complaint, this argument strengthens the Collective’s impression that this complaint is an anti-circumvention complaint in the making…. The production of components for electric bicycles in Europe is by no means at a level to supply the demand that would result from anti-circumvention measures.”

Bafang, a Chinese manufacturer of e-drive systems, issued their own statement earlier this month denouncing the allegation of ‘heavy state subsidization’ enabling the Chinese to ‘catch up with EU know-how.’

Their statement says: “Bafang entered the electric bicycle industry in 1999 – long before the well-known European e-bike component makers entered the market – and launched its own brand in 2003. The indictment from the European Bicycle Manufactures Association (EBMA) has several accusations without any proof that Bafang received heavy government subsidies and with that, e-bikes were allegedly ‘dumped’ into the European market. Besides many other wrong and constructed arguments in the paper, it proves that EBMA has an incomplete, distorted and biased understanding on the history of the development of electric power-assisted bicycle and the Chinese e-bike industry.” Bafang sum up that their progress has been “entirely the result of market competition, supply and demand.”

China’s minister of commerce, Wang Hejun, said the Chinese government was watching developments closely and urged the EU to respect World Trade Organization rules, warning the EU not to let the investigation lead to a “new case of trade protectionism”.

Debate on the Pedelecs forum points to the UK’s future options of being able to set its own import tariffs in the light of Brexit and utilising production facilities in eastern Europe in the medium term. David Miall of UK electric bike brand Wisper, has added his support to LEVA collective’s efforts, saying: “If this goes ahead, there will be an immediate call for anti circumvention to come into place. If this happens, motors, batteries and most parts will only be allowed into the UK and other EU members with the anti dumping levy applied. This will put an estimated 50% onto the price of e-bike parts, kits and full electric bikes coming in from China. This will in turn only have one consequence: it will drive up the price of ALL electric bikes.”

In its concluding statement, LEVA say the collective is convinced that the complainant does not provide satisfying evidence for dumping, injury and causal link.

Their final call to the Commission to terminate the case against Chinese imports links the resulting potential lack of consumer choice, due to restrictive trade measures, leading to less take up of sustainable mobility to the detriment of society as a whole.