European makers of electronic bicycles (e-bikes) have filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) against a flood of cheap Chinese imports.
The European Bicycle Manufacturers Association (EBMA) lodged the complaint, alleging that Chinese companies were flooding the EU market with e-bikes at prices below the cost of production.
The EC has one month to determine whether to start an investigation.
An e-bike, also known as a pedelec, is a bicycle with a battery and electric motor that assists when pedalling up to 15.5mph in the UK. The rider still has to pedal but the speed gets a boost.
Moreno Fioravanti, EBMA secretary-general, said subsidies offered by the Chinese government allow the country's manufacturers to sell the e-bikes in Europe for less than they cost to produce.
Chinese e-bikes sell for around $450 in Europe, while local products typically cost $1,500-$2,000.
“European e-bikes are undercut and overwhelmed on their home market by heavily subsidised, illegally dumped Chinese e-bikes, which are sold below product costs,” he said.
“The imports of e-bikes from China have been increasing quickly and have now exploded. Imports in the first seven month of 2017 already exceed the entire 2016 import volume and increased from virtually zero in 2010 to more than 800,000 in 2017.”
The EBMA said more than 430,000 Chinese e-bikes were sold in the EU in 2016, a 40% increase on the previous year, and the figure is forecast to rise to around 800,000 in 2017.
E-bikes, which are powered by batteries, are big business in China, where sales have skyrocketed from roughly 1m a year in the early 2000s to more than 30m in 2016.
The EBMA estimate that there are now between 150m and 200m e-bikes on Chinese roads.
However, sales growth in China has slowed in recent months due to a boom in bike-sharing schemes and a crackdown on e-bikes in some cities.
EBMA data shows annual e-bike production in China of 51m units. With an annual consumption of 28m e-bikes, the Chinese industry is said to have an overcapacity of 23m units.
The EBMA said excess production is now being shipped to Europe and the imports, if not stopped, would “annihilate European production within only a few years”.
Fioravanti said the EBMA is also preparing a related complaint alleging illegal subsidies and asking for registration of Chinese e-bike imports, which could allow eventual duties to be backdated.
“The Chinese are getting the money from the government and the subsidies have an impact of 30, 40, even 50% of the price of the product. You have subsidies, which generate overcapacity, which generate dumping,” he said.
“The EC must stop China dumping e-bikes and immediately register the imports so anti-dumping duties can be applied retroactively. Anti-dumping measures are clearly in the EU’s interest because e-bikes are a strategic, innovative industry for Europe’s green and smart e-mobility future.”
He added that European companies had pioneered the pedal-assist technology that e-bikes use and had invested about $1.2bn last year.
“Today the European bikes are the best in the world and we to invest every year to renew the range,” he said.
Europeans buy some 20m bicycles per year, of which around 10% are e-bikes, according to EBMA.
Last year, the European Union blamed China for scuppering a global environmental trade deal by insisting that bicycles be included as a tariff-free green product.
Chinese conventional bicycles have been subject to EU anti-dumping duties since 1993.
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