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EU Imposes Tariffs Up to 38% on Chinese EVs Amid Trade Tensions

Facing an influx of subsidized Chinese electric vehicles, the European Union is imposing steep tariffs, prompting fears of retaliatory measures and economic fallout.

Michael C. Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Battery Technology

June 12, 2024

3 Min Read
EU flag with China puzzle piece
EU flag with China puzzle pieceBaona / iStock via Getty Images

The European Union (EU) has announced substantial new tariffs on electric vehicles (EVs) imported from China, raising concerns about potential trade conflicts between the two economic giants. The tariffs, set to be implemented from July 4, range from 17.4% to 38.1% on top of the existing 10% duty, significantly increasing the cost of Chinese EVs in Europe (Reuters).

The announcement comes just weeks after the US announced its own EV-related tariffs on Chinese companies.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, justified these measures following an investigation that began in October, which concluded that Chinese EVs benefit from unfair state subsidies. These subsidies allow Chinese manufacturers to sell their vehicles at artificially low prices, posing a significant threat to European carmakers.

Breakdown of tariffs

The EU has set varying levels of additional duties based on the cooperation of Chinese companies during the investigation:

  • BYD, a major player in the global EV market, faces an additional 17.4% tariff.

  • Geely, owner of Sweden's Volvo, will be subjected to a 20% tariff.

  • SAIC, another major Chinese automaker, will incur the highest additional duty at 38.1%.

  • Companies that cooperated with the investigation will see a 21% additional duty, while non-cooperative firms face the maximum 38.1%.

Related:Europe's Battery Industry 'Caught in the Crossfire'

Tesla, which manufactures many of its vehicles in China, may receive an individually calculated tariff rate later, depending on further negotiations and evidence provided to the Commission (CNN).

Trade war risk

China has strongly condemned the EU's decision, labeling it as protectionist and threatening to the stability of global trade. Per CNBC, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce stated that the tariffs would harm China-EU economic relations and disrupt the global automotive supply chain. Beijing has already initiated retaliatory measures, including an anti-dumping investigation into European imports such as brandy, and could impose higher tariffs on European goods, from vehicles to luxury items (CNN).

The potential for a trade war looms large, as Beijing might use both diplomatic and economic tools to counter the EU's actions. This situation creates a precarious environment for European automakers, many of whom (as Reuters points out) have substantial investments in China and rely heavily on the Chinese market for their sales. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has voiced concerns about the tariffs, warning that protectionism could lead to higher costs and economic hardship for all parties involved. CNN quotes him as saying last Saturday that protectionism and isolation “ultimately just makes everything more expensive and everyone poorer.”

Related:New US Tariffs Designed to Protect EV/Battery Industries from China Trade Practices

The new EU tariffs on Chinese EVs mark a significant shift in trade policy, reflecting growing concerns over fair competition and the protection of strategic industries within Europe. While the immediate economic impact may be limited, the long-term consequences could reshape the global EV market and lead to heightened trade tensions between the EU and China. As the November deadline for potentially making these tariffs permanent approaches, the situation remains fluid, with ongoing negotiations and potential retaliations likely to influence the final outcome.

The tariff announcement precedes a gathering of European EV and battery executives at The Battery Show Europe conference in Stuttgart, Germany by just a week: Your Battery Technology team will be asking for comments on the tariff news.

About the Author(s)

Michael C. Anderson

Editor-in-Chief, Battery Technology, Informa Markets - Engineering

Battery Technology Editor-in-Chief Michael C. Anderson has been covering manufacturing and transportation technology developments for more than a quarter-century, with editor roles at Manufacturing Engineering, Cutting Tool Engineering, Automotive Design & Production, and Smart Manufacturing. Before all of that, he taught English and literature at colleges in Japan and Michigan.

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