The Collective of European Importers of Electric Bicycles has requested LEVA-EU to assist them in their defence in AD643 against e-bikes from China. Upon careful consideration, LEVA-EU has decided to accept this task for the following reasons.
LEVA-EU is open to any party wanting to join in on the promotion of LEVs, including electric bicycles in Europe. LEVA-EU welcomes manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, dealers, … alike, provided they share LEVA-EU’s belief in LEVs and agree to work together to grow the market.
Having read the complaint, LEVA-EU has concluded that this initiative is not aimed at growing the market. It is an attempt to ensure a bigger piece of the market for some parties. For that purpose, the popular and currently well-used tactic of “us” against “them” is put in position. AD643 is meant to be read as a battle of European manufacturers against Chinese manufacturers. So, their assumption is: if you are European, you know which camp to support, because that is the camp that provides economic growth, jobs, etc. What’s more, they believe that as a European you should fight against the Chinese manufacturers. They believe their sole purpose is to kill off the European manufacturers, take all production to China and leave Europe with, yet another, economic and industrial wasteland.
LEVA-EU rather believes that there is a golden opportunity, which is far more real than the risks outlined by European manufacturers, but which unfortunately remains largely untapped.
Perhaps in 1993 the world was effectively still that simple. But today, 24 years later, the world has changed beyond imagination. The old demarcation separating “us” from “them” has become meaningless. European manufacturers are importing components from outside Europe on an unprecedented scale. Some are, in addition to their own assembly, also importing complete electric bicycles. Globalization and Internet have yielded so much more than just some opportunistic imports of crappy e-bikes. There are new entrepreneurs coming into the business, who are developing innovative and disruptive ideas and business models. They no longer abide by the traditional supply chains but work on principles, which are driven by developments and technologies based on new concepts such as mobility as a service. They shop around the world for components and assembly, whilst devising business models that include leasing, sharing, conventional sales which combine points of sales, Internet, home delivery, … They are flexible, open-minded and very aware that they are working with a golden opportunity in the framework of issues such as mobility, transport, air quality, public health, etc.
Companies that keep clinging to old industrial adages are missing out on this golden opportunity. They have a quality product that sells well, and the objective is to stretch this success to a maximum. However, today, the world is moving too fast for such conservatism.
With all due respect, Europe does not need any conferences on and initiatives about bringing production back to the old continent. Europe needs conferences and initiatives on R&D, on innovating business models, on how to push LEV uptake, on how to encourage/help start-ups, on how to cooperate with the scientific/academic world, on setting up alliances with cities and citizens’ organizations, … And should that result in the conclusion that it may be useful to start up production in Europe, fine. But not defying all economic reality by bringing back production just out of nostalgia.
Ironically, in trying to preserve their position, these companies attack the wrong enemy. Importers, overseas producers, new companies applying new business models, … they are not the enemy.
Growing the market
Whilst the European industry files anti-dumping complaints and works hard to keep existing measures in place, an ever growing peloton of cities in Europe limits, sometimes even pushes combustion engine vehicles out. Every congestion charge, every low emission zone, every SUMP is a gift to the LEV-business. New markets are being opened, for free, every day all over Europe. But instead of tapping on that ever growing potential, a dumping complaint is filed, which prevents all parties in the sector to work on that potential.
Dumping cases are so time-consuming that hardly any time is left to do the work that really needs doing. LEVA-EU is trying to do that: work for better technical regulations, ask for attention in policies relevant to LEVAs, in European subsidy programmes, work to inform companies on the rules and on the market, ….
Our ultimate objective is to prove how counter-productive it is to use trade defence instruments for purposes other than what they are really meant for. If LEVA-EU can achieve that by supporting companies going against this counterproductive initiative, then we improve chances to get the whole sector around the table and start a serious discussion about how to grow the market for all instead of making only some pieces of the cake bigger.
We are open for any exchange of views on this LEVA-position.