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EU to slap extra tariffs of up to 38% on Chinese electric cars

The European Commission has ordered a provisional hike to tariffs on Chinese manufacturers including BYD
The European Commission has ordered a provisional hike to tariffs on Chinese manufacturers including BYD - Copyright AFP/File Jim WATSON
The European Commission has ordered a provisional hike to tariffs on Chinese manufacturers including BYD - Copyright AFP/File Jim WATSON
Raziye Akkoc in Brussels and Ludovic Ehret in Beijing

The European Union threatened on Wednesday to hit Chinese electric car imports with additional tariffs of up to 38 percent from next month following an anti-subsidy probe, a move that risks triggering a trade war.

Brussels provoked China’s ire by launching the probe last year in a bid to defend European manufacturers.

Hours before the announcement, Beijing warned that such a move would “harm Europe’s own interests”.

There is also dissent within the EU, with Germany, a major trade partner to China, saying the tariffs would harm German companies.

The European Commission has now ordered a provisional hike of tariffs on Chinese manufacturers: 17.4 percent for market major BYD, 20 percent for Geely and 38.1 percent for SAIC.

The commission said the amount depended on the level of state subsidies received by the companies.

All other electric car producers in China which had cooperated with the commission’s probe but were not sampled would face an average duty of 21 percent, it added.

The remaining BEV producers which did not cooperate with the investigation would be subject to a 38.1 percent duty.

This would be on top of the current rate of 10 percent on all electric cars produced in China.

To halt the extra tariffs being levied, Beijing and Brussels must resolve the subsidies issue.

“The Commission has provisionally concluded that the battery electric vehicles (BEV) value chain in China benefits from unfair subsidisation, which is causing a threat of economic injury to EU BEV producers,” it said in a statement.

“Should discussions with Chinese authorities not lead to an effective solution, these provisional countervailing duties would be introduced,” it added.

The tariffs will apply provisionally from July 4 and then definitively from November unless there is a qualified majority of EU states — 15 countries representing at least 65 percent of the bloc’s population — voting against the move.

China warned prior to the announcement that the tariffs would amount to “protectionism”.

“It goes against the principles of market economy and international trade rules, undermines China-EU economic and trade cooperation as well as the stability of the global automobile production and supply chain,” foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

“China will take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” he said.

– China warning –

Brussels launched the probe last year, with officials saying they wanted to put the brakes on what they claimed were unfair practices undercutting Europe’s car manufacturers.

The EU’s tariffs, while high, are lower than the United States’ 100-percent rate imposed from last month on Chinese electric cars.

Not all 27 EU member states welcome the commission’s move. 

Germany, Hungary and Sweden already expressed reservations about the investigation and the push to slap higher duties.

“The European Commission’s punitive tariffs hit German companies and their top products,” German transport minister Volker Wissing wrote on X.

“Cars must become cheaper through more competition, open markets and significantly better business conditions in the EU, not through trade war and market isolation,” Wissing said.

China is an important market for German car makers, while Hungary, which a month ago hosted a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, is clearing land for a BYD factory to be built next year. Geely owns Volvo, the Swedish-based auto manufacturer.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce to the EU (CCCEU) warned the rates announced “will pose a serious market barrier” and slammed the “politically motivated and protectionism driven” investigation.

The CCCEU said the probe lacked “substantive and substantiated complaints from its domestic industry” since it was launched by the commission without a complaint from manufacturers.

– Retaliation –

Chinese media ramped up threats that Beijing could target EU exports, including pork and dairy products, in the weeks running before the commission’s decision.

China is an important country for EU’s agriculture sector and any move by Beijing could deliver acute pain to European exports.

EU exported dairy products worth around 1.7 billion euros ($1.8 billion) last year, down from nearly 2.1 billion euros in 2023.

The Asian country is the third destination for the EU’s agri-food exports after Britain and the United States.

China is the world’s biggest car exporter and Europe is a critical market for it.

EU imports of EVs from China mushroomed from around 57,000 in 2020 to around 437,000 in 2023, the US-based Peterson Institute for International Economics said.

Ahead of the EU’s move, Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy said in a report that a 20 percent tariff would mean 125,000 fewer Chinese electric cars to the EU, worth almost $4 billion.


Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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