This week, Bike Europe published a White Paper that allegedly contains “all you need to know on EUs anti-dumping measures on e-bikes imported from China”. I have carefully read the White Paper and my conclusion is that there is not that much to know, except for: come to Europe, have your e-bikes made here and all your problems will be solved.
The main article in the White Paper sketches 5 “illegal and legal scenarios to avoid anti-dumping duties on e-bikes from China”. To be precise, the article contains 4 illegal scenarios, whilst scenario 5 is an undisguised advertisement for setting up shop in Europe. Bike Europe declares that whilst there are only 70 European producers of e-bikes so far (the Commission only found 37), there are 250 bicycle producers eagerly awaiting e-bike orders. From this, it appears that the 25-year old dumping duties on conventional bikes still do not have the desired result, if these 250 producers all have unused production capacity available for the production of e-bikes.
Go to Bulgaria
Bike Europe continues the advertisement with the announcement that it is now even cheaper to have them made in for instance Romania and Bulgaria, then in China. With this statement, the authors of the White Paper seem to be forgetting that one of the reasons why Chinese exporters and European importers are hit with antidumping duties is because the value of their bikes is lower than the normal value of EU produced e-bikes.
The authors continue with their undisguised advertisement and even switch into a political gear, just in case we forget how bad China is: “For Chinese, Taiwanese or companies coming from other Asian countries, there are no closed doors in Europe. There are no barriers to overcome in terms of for instance the obligation to partner with a European company; contrary to EU companies that want to produce in China. Investing in production in Europe brings not only an escape on the e-bike antidumping duties, but also shorter supply chains and being close to market; all elements for establishing a futureproof business.”
Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought that Bike Europe would join EBMA in their popular tactic of “us” against “them”. The whole anti-dumping case is meant to be read as a battle of European manufacturers against Chinese manufacturers, (words I wrote more than a year ago) and that is exactly what Bike Europe is propagating.
Importers’ ordeal ignored
It is absolutely baffling to me to find that this White Paper even goes as far as justifying the mandate of the EBMA, whilst not paying the slightest attention to the ordeal that an estimated 150 European SMEs are going through due to this unjust, unfair and unfounded case. All these European SMEs, who had their e-bikes assembled in China, had to turn their businesses upside down and inside out overnight. Bike Europe does not have the slightest attention for any of those SME’s whose managers literally had nightmares over laying off staff, not honouring contracts, even potentially going bankrupt, just because one signature from someone in Brussels, had them convicted and punished for cheating.
I was on my way to the Belgian (e)bike exhibition, Velofollies, when the news was announced about the Commission’s final decision. I did not meet one person who cheered over the news, not a single one! The person I remember best is the owner of a small company, designing, specifying and marketing their e-bikes here, but having them assembled in China. It had taken them years to organize their relationships with Chinese suppliers. For all these years, he and his wife had done nothing but work. When he heard the news about the duties, he hung his head in absolute sadness and said: “So, we have worked for nothing last year.” Following Bike Europe’s logic, he has just been stupid, because he’d been bothering with the Chinese whilst the Bulgarians and the Romanians could have done a cheaper job for him.
Investigation too complicated
This very statement about Bulgaria and Romania currently being cheaper than China also proves that Bike Europe does not understand what a dumping case is. It is a trade defence instrument, to defend European trade against illegal trade practices from outside Europe. Dumping is an illegal trade practice, anti-dumping measures are not to be abused as a political tool to protect European economy and European employment. To implement anti-dumping measures, there must be sufficient proof of dumping and of injury to the EU Industry and a causal link between the two. In the past year, Bike Europe has never bothered to really investigate the case, let alone to actually ask those companies that were allegedly injured how that injury manifested itself. Whenever I suggested such investigation, I got told the case was too complicated.
However, the case does not appear to be too complicated for Bike Europe to conclude, with EBMA, that the best solution is to produce in Europe. Unfortunately, the White Paper does lack a few details. Just to mention one: it does not explain how to cope with the import of parts from China. The White Paper does have a story about SKD and CKD but says absolutely nothing about the enormous problems and chaos resulting from the fact that customs all over Europe are unaware of the fact that bicycle parts are exempted from 48.5% anti-circumvention duty if used for the assembly of electric bicycles. The White Paper says something about circumvention but circumvents the issue of who will be able to deal with anti-circumvention on component parts for electric bicycles. It is much more interested in warning against illegal transhipments.
LEVA-EU is working on these issues and providing its members with the necessary information and advice. LEVA-EU is also considering the next steps in this case because anti-circumvention on components for e-bikes will have an even more detrimental impact on the European e-bike sector. LEVA-EU does not believe in the Europeans against the Chinese, LEVA-EU believes in people: in Europe, in China, in Vietnam, in Malaysia, …. This world needs solidarity, mutual respect and cooperation, it certainly does not need yet another blame game.
You can download the White Paper here: https://www.bike-eu.com/whitepapers
If you need advice and assistance with dealing with the duties, contact LEVA-EU: [email protected], tel. +32 9 233 60 05.
This article is my personal opinion.