The European Union's trade defense measures on e-bikes, particularly those made in China, have had negative effects on businesses. A complex network of anti-dumping and countervailing laws has led to many EU businesses failing due to politicians' indifference and the European Commission's unwillingness to address these concerns.
The complexity of the issue, as explained by LEVA-EU Manager Annick Roetynck, causes companies to make mistakes and is the primary culprit. The lack of information has resulted in leading companies committing insurmountable mistakes, and the alarming rate of business failures contributes to the devastation. Because of the complexities of the problem, many businesses have gone bankrupt, highlighting the need for better information and effective trade defense measures.
Since 1993, the EU has imposed dumping duties on traditional Chinese bicycles, which were later extended to essential bicycle parts, too. However, as electric bike production in the EU increased in recent years, complications arose due to the application of duties intended for conventional bikes to e-bike components.
EU enterprises were allowed to import and manufacture Chinese components without paying the 48.5 percent charges, but as the assembly of electric bikes grew, critical components for bicycles subject to 48.5 percent levies were being used for e-bike assembly.
To avoid circumvention, companies must not use more than 59% Chinese components. Despite attempts to correct this, discriminatory practices emerged, leaving businesses in a somewhat unexpected legal bind. DG Trade classified certain assemblers as "hybrid" rather than e-bike assemblers, which to some, complicated the issue further.
China is the primary source of bike components, batteries, and e-bike motors, making it challenging for EU assemblers to manufacture e-bikes with Chinese parts limited to 59% of the total value. The migration of component production to China and the requirement to limit their use of Chinese components to 59% or add 25% in value during assembly pose significant challenges.
Chinese-made e-bikes faced restrictions, leading some companies to relocate assembly to the EU or non-preferential trade status countries like Taiwan or Thailand. In 2019, the rule of origin allowed a change of tariff heading or a maximum of 55% Chinese content. However, non-binding laws like the 2020 rule of origin have complicated matters for enterprises transferring assembly outside of China.
The European Court of Justice's case law clashes with rapid regulatory changes, leaving enterprises vulnerable to attacks from the European Anti-Fraud Office and national customs authorities.
The LEVA-EU meeting has highlighted the financial burdens on new firms, making it difficult to start operations without paying anti-dumping taxes. The Commission's tightening of exemption standards raises doubts about the necessity of such limits. Companies assembling e-bikes face additional issues with end-use authorization, complicating their efforts to comply. Finnish customs rejected e-bike assembly applications for end-use authorization two years ago, claiming it didn't exist.
Belgian customs spent 698 days declining an application, revealing mishandling, as the application was treated as an exemption for importing less than 300 pieces a month, not applicable to electric bikes.
One company was raided for violating e-bike regulations. In certain Member States, 48.5% duties on e-bike parts must be paid until authorization is granted, despite the assertion that these parts are not lawfully subject to further measures.
The EU's customs policies, ranging from non-criminal violations in the Netherlands to criminal tribunals in Belgium, Finland, and Italy, show significant disparities in enforcing dumping legislation.
High penalties, including fines and prison sentences, threaten the survival of European businesses. The psychological impact of these tactics raises questions about the justice and effectiveness of these tactics.
Many European e-bike companies view the total impact of trade defense measures on conventional and electric bicycles from China as life-threatening. LEVA-EU plans to interact with the Commission, recommending legislative changes and advocating for a more transparent customs policy.
The loss of European enterprises has far-reaching consequences for the economy, labor market, and consumers. With each shutdown, jobs are lost, treasuries lose revenue, and competition is reduced.
Given the current hurdles faced by trade defense measures, the EU's lofty objective of establishing two million jobs in the cycling ecosystem by 2030 appears unrealistic. The Commission's overestimation of the industry's scale in its Proposal for a European Declaration on Cycling calls into question its accuracy.
LEVA-EU look to contact legislators once more in the hope that someone in the European Parliament's INTA committee will look into this very questionable file. Meanwhile, the Commission is considering extending restrictions on the import of Chinese e-bikes.
There appears to be little doubt that a review procedure will be initiated. Over the last five years, it has become evident that supposedly anti-China measures are actually causing irreparable harm to European businesses. The real question today is whether any European companies would be forced out of the market by the new regulations.
This extremely sad instance plainly hurts the European economy as well as the European people's interests. With each company that goes bankrupt, jobs are lost, and treasuries lose revenue from taxes, social security, and VAT. Every company that goes out of business reduces competition, puts retailers under pressure, and raises consumer prices.
It is also unclear how, the impact of further trade defense measures, and the European Parliament's projection that the number of jobs in the EU cycling ecosystem might be increased from 1 to 2 million by 2030 would be met.
According to the Commission's Proposal for a European Declaration on Cycling, the European cycling industry "now includes over 1000 SMEs and accounts for one million jobs, with significant potential for growth." This appears to be an exaggeration, given that the Commission reported 3,493 individuals engaged in the Union industry in the Anti-Dumping and Anti-Subsidy Regulations.
The majority of the enterprises under attack are SMEs founded by young, entrepreneurial individuals. The current trade defense measures against Chinese electric bikes harm these European enterprises and the jobs they have created in Europe.
The existing trade defense measures against Chinese electric bikes disproportionately affect European SMEs, limiting innovation and job growth. The measures not only stifle economic progress, but they also jeopardize the EU's commitment to fostering a dynamic and competitive market. In order to ensure a just and sustainable future for the European e-bike industry, it is critical to reevaluate and enhance current trade defense measures.