EU PROTECTS > Our Society > An equal footing: How the EU keeps the wheels of fair trade turning

“Unfair competition would put our small town on the verge of an economic crisis.”

Monika Božíková

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are a faster and greener mode of transport for people of all ages. From 2016, bicycle companies across Europe began to struggle to compete with massive e-bike imports from China. These cheaper e-bikes, arriving on the EU market en masse, threatened to wipe out 90,000 jobs in Europe in just a few years.

Alerted by European bicycle manufacturers, the European Commission investigated the exports from China and the state of the industry in Europe. In the space of a few months, the EU’s investigation teams had collected enough evidence to prove that imported e-bikes were being sold at an unfair price on the EU market. Meet the EU trade investigators, customs officers and companies that made sure Chinese e-bike importers played by the rules.

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An equal footing: How the EU keeps the wheels of fair trade turning

Europe is open for business, but everyone must play fair. EU trade rules stop artificially cheap imports from flooding the EU market and pushing European companies out of business. When European bicycle manufacturers suspected that some of these rules had been broken, EU trade investigators and customs officers jumped into gear to protect the future of a whole sector.

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EU Protects: How the EU keeps the wheels of fair trade turning

Moreno Fioravanti

Italian, European Bicycle Manufacturers Association

Belgium

“I received calls from bicycle companies all over Europe. They couldn’t compete with an influx in imported e-bikes at what appeared to be unfair prices.”

“Electric bikes are popular, and they appeal to everyone. But this invention counts for nothing if the rules of fair trade are not respected. If we hadn’t got EU trade investigators involved, there wouldn’t be a European e-bike industry today.”

“We alerted the European Commission to protect our sector’s 800 small businesses and 90,000 jobs.”

 - Moreno Fioravanti

Michał Struk

Polish, Trade department, European Commission

Belgium

“The European Bicycle Manufacturers Association asked us to investigate the possible dumping of e-bike imports onto the EU market. My team visited 5 e-bike manufacturers in Europe to verify whether their complaints about unfair competition were founded. We also visited 5 European importers of Chinese e-bikes to see how our measures would affect their businesses.”

“After one year, we had enough evidence that European bike producers had experienced decreases in market share. But our investigation into the unfair trading of e-bikes didn’t end there.”

“We confirmed the negative effect on the European bike industry. But we needed to know more about the cause.”

 - Michał Struk

Arto Leppilahti

Finnish, Trade department, European Commission

Belgium

“While our colleagues investigated in Europe, we had just a few months to visit several e-bike manufacturers in China, as well as a supplier of e-bike engines. We found out that these companies got support from the Chinese government in the form of cheap loans, bicycle parts and even land to build factories and expand their business for exports. This explained how these e-bikes could be sold at prices much lower than EU prices.”

“To do our job properly we had to investigate the activities of Chinese companies and look into the role of the Chinese economic and trade authorities. Back in Brussels, based on all the evidence collected in Europe and in China, we decided to impose special taxes on these e-bike imports. This helped restore fair trade in the EU.”

"We make sure EU trade rules are respected. We won’t allow unfair price advantages to change the game."

 - Arto Leppilahti

Oliver Christ

Customs, Port of Hamburg

Germany

“We complete up to 500 checks a day. If somebody declares a container of e-bikes, for example, we’ll cross-check them in an electronic database. We make sure they comply with EU trade rules or, if they don’t stick to them, pay anti-dumping duties.”

“We deal with a range of businesses and products. Over the years, I’ve developed an eye for identifying and stopping imports that break the rules and threaten the European market.”

“After a trade investigation is successfully completed, we step in to make sure extra import duties are paid.”

 - Oliver Christ

Monika Božíková

Kenzel bicycle company

Slovakia

“My brother and I grew up surrounded by bicycles. To this day, we’re a family-run business and we use suppliers from Europe and beyond.”

“We employ 80 people and recently invested in a new production site. But we could never compete against unfairly priced imports. EU trade rules protect our future and allow our community to thrive.”

 

 

“Europe has really played an important role in giving small businesses like mine a voice. When we join forces, we can better protect our industry.”

 - Monika Božíková

Did you know?

Pedal to the metal

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) come in different sizes, styles and their battery-powered electric systems relieve the burden, whether you're pedaling up or across any terrain. Newer models can even communicate with other vehicles, alerting them when they get too close.

E-fficiency

E-bike manufacturers in Europe pride themselves on reducing their carbon footprint. If all e-bikes sold in the EU were imported from China, C02 and other dangerous emissions could increase by 2 million tonnes.

800

The number of innovative European SMEs that make up the European bike manufacturing industry, which employs some 90,000 workers.

1 million

The number of e-bikes produced by European manufacturers every year.

Electric services

The EU-funded project Pro E-Bike promotes the public use of electric bikes and scooters as an attractive alternative to conventional (fossil-fueled) vehicles. The project is underway in Italy, Sweden, Croatia, Spain, The Netherlands, Portugal and other countries.

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