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China and the EU are to hold talks on electric vehicle tariffs 

This decision, made during Germany’s vice chancellor’s visit to China over the weekend, is being viewed as a bid by both sides to avoid a damaging trade war
  • The EU announced provisional new tariffs of up to almost 50 percent on Chinese-made EV’s earlier this month with Beijing threatening retaliation

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UPDATED: 24 Jun 2024, 7:37 am

China and the European Union (EU) have agreed to start talks over the latter’s plans to impose steep new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs). According to Bloomberg, Germany’s deputy leader described the move as an attempt by both sides to avoid a trade war.

The decision to engage was announced by China’s commerce ministry on Saturday, after the country’s minister for commerce Wang Wentao and EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis discussed the matter via a video conference. Their call followed a trip to China by Germany’s vice chancellor, Robert Habeck, who reiterated the bloc’s willingness to discuss the tariffs.

“This is a first step and many more will be necessary,” Habeck later told reporters. “But at least this is a first step that was not possible before. That’s why tonight is a good evening if we want to try to maintain a level playing field and avoid a tariff war.”

[See more: Automakers, analysts and Chinese officials respond to the EU’s electric vehicle tariffs]

A European Commission spokesman described Dombrovskis and Wang’s talk as “candid and constructive,” with both sides agreeing to “engage on the basis of facts and in full respect of WTO rules.”

The EU announced provisional new tariff rates of up to almost 50 percent earlier this month, following a months-long investigation into domestic subsidies received by Chinese EV manufacturers. Like the US, the EU has claimed these subsidies gave Chinese companies an unfair advantage on the open market.

Chinese officials have slammed the tariffs as protectionist behaviour that will only serve to endanger climate-change goals and raise the cost of switching to an EV for European consumers. Beijing has also threatened to respond in kind, through slapping its own tariffs on EU-made automobiles, aircrafts and liquor. However, officials have maintained that they would rather address trade frictions through dialogue and consultation.

It was expected that the talks between Brussels and Beijing will take place over the coming weeks.

UPDATED: 24 Jun 2024, 7:37 am

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