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    German Minister Robert Habeck Clarifies EU Tariffs on Chinese Goods are Not Punitive


    German Economy Minister Robert Habeck emphasized that the proposed European Union tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicles (EVs) are not intended as punishment, during his visit to Beijing on Saturday. Habeck’s visit marks the first by a senior European official since Brussels proposed substantial duties on imports of Chinese EVs, aimed at countering what the EU perceives as excessive subsidies.

    Habeck addressed Chinese officials in the first plenary session of a climate and transformation dialogue, stating, “It is important to understand that these are not punitive tariffs.” He contrasted the EU’s approach with that of countries like the U.S., Brazil, and Turkey, which have implemented punitive tariffs, asserting, “Europe does things differently.”

    For nine months, the European Commission conducted a detailed examination of whether Chinese companies received unfair subsidies. Any resulting countervailing duty measure, Habeck explained, is meant to compensate for the advantages granted to Chinese companies by Beijing, not to punish them. “Common, equal standards for market access should be achieved,” he added.

    During a meeting with Zheng Shanjie, chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Habeck reiterated that the proposed EU tariffs are intended to level the playing field. Zheng responded by pledging to protect Chinese companies and expressing concern that the tariffs would harm both sides. He denied accusations of unfair subsidies, attributing China’s new energy industry growth to competitive advantages in technology, market, and industry chains.

    The EU’s provisional duties are set to apply by July 4, with the investigation continuing until November 2. Definitive duties, typically lasting five years, could be imposed afterward. Habeck urged Chinese officials to engage in discussions about the EU report’s conclusions.

    Trade tensions were a key topic of discussion, but the primary goal of Habeck’s visit was to deepen cooperation between Germany and China on climate change and the green transition. This plenary session followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries in June of last year for cooperation on climate and green initiatives.

    Both nations acknowledged their special responsibility to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, a critical threshold according to scientists. China has been a leader in renewable energy expansion, installing nearly 350 gigawatts of new capacity in 2023, more than half the global total, as per a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

    While Habeck praised China’s renewable energy expansion, he also highlighted the importance of addressing overall CO2 emissions. Coal still accounted for nearly 60% of China’s electricity supply in 2023. Habeck suggested that the significant expansion of coal power could be reconsidered in favor of incorporating more renewables into the system.

    Habeck’s visit also included discussions with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, who planned to discuss the tariffs with EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis via video conference. The visit underscored the complexities of balancing trade relations with environmental responsibilities in the context of global economic and ecological challenges.

    Sources By Agencies

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