Chinese dumping allegations put western fleet owners on alert

The European Commission and the UK Trade Remedies Authority are responding to claims from western suppliers that ‘unusual commercial practices’ have emerged which are harmful to healthy and fair competition. A handful of manufacturers have spoken out in support of the investigations, while at least one Chinese OEM has responded in cooperation with the effort.

Berlaymont Building The Berlaymont building - headquaters of the European Commission (Image: Andrzej via AdobeStock - stock.adobe.com)

Fleet owners in Europe and the UK are on alert as authorities investigate allegations that low-cost equipment imported from China is being “dumped,” thereby harming the manufacturing industry in the West. 

It was reported earlier this month that the European Commission has begun an investigation into imported MEWPs from China, following official complaints from suppliers based in Europe that cheap imports are undermining European suppliers.

The complaint was first lodged in September by the “Coalition to restore a level playing field in the EU Mobile Access Equipment Sector” and could potentially lead to tariffs being imposed on imported goods, as has been the case in the US. Historically, prices for whole goods have gone up in response to the imposition of tariffs. 

The ongoing debate about Chinese exports to Europe is widening. In October this year, the EU also began an investigation into claims of dumping of battery electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe. “Global markets are now flooded with cheaper electric cars. And their price is kept artificially low by huge state subsidies,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in September.

The identity of the MEWP coalition companies and/or individuals has not been made public. However, France-based Haulotte and Manitou both welcomed the anti-dumping investigation, issuing identical statements; “In the last months, unusual commercial practices have emerged on the European market, at a time when healthy and fair competition is more necessary than ever for the development of a robust European industry in this sector.

“The European Commission was therefore informed of this situation and received substantial evidence on the above-mentioned practices and their negative impact for the EU industry.”

Meanwhile, a similar concern has arisen in regard to construction equipment, although this relates purely to the UK.

JCB has said it “welcomed” news that UK Government investigations are under way into alleged dumping of subsidised Chinese excavators on the UK market. It has been alleged that some Chinese manufacturers have targeted the UK market with cut-price excavators.

Following complaints, the UK Trade Remedies Authority (the TRA) has launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into imports from China of tracked excavators of at least 11 tonnes into the UK.

“We welcome these investigations by the Trade Remedies Authority. There is clear evidence of unfair competitive practices in relation to aggressive, and subsidised, pricing of tracked excavators imported from China,” said JCB CEO, Graeme Macdonald.

“We want to see a swift and clear resolution to this urgent matter so that a competitive level playing field is restored for all UK-based manufacturers who invest heavily in the development of world-leading products.”

A similar sentiment, in relation to the EU MEWP investigation, was expressed by Michel Denis, president & CEO of Manitou Group and Alexandre Saubot, the CEO of Haulotte Group, who jointly stated: “We welcome the launch of this investigation. Fair competition on the European market is a prerequisite to ensure that businesses remain sustainable.

“We are therefore calling for swift and decisive action by the European Commission so that our activities and that of hundreds of our industrial suppliers in the EU can continue to innovate, to provide quality jobs to their workforce and continued safety to workers across the EU.”

In an immediate response, China-based manufacturer Sinoboom said it planned to work with the Commission. “Sinoboom is cooperating fully with the investigation and looks forward to confirming that it has followed the highest standards of professionalism while introducing its high-quality products to European customers.”

Products under scrutiny

Outlining the above complaint, the European Commission said in its official statement, “The product subject to this investigation is mobile access equipment designed for the lifting of persons, self-propelled, with a maximum working height of 6m or more, and pre-assembled or ready-to-assemble sections thereof, excluding individual components when presented separately, and excluding person lifting equipment mounted on vehicles.”

In November 2021, the US International Trade Commission ruled that US MEWP manufacturers were being economically harmed by Chinese MEWP imports and announced that tariffs would be put in place.

Full details of the latest EU case, as well as the likely time schedule for a ruling, can be found here. Companies have 70 days from Nov. 13 to submit completed questionnaires concerning the issue, with European and Chinese manufacturers, importers and equipment users, including rental companies, able to participate.

The investigation in Europe

The European Commission added the complainant had stated that it is not appropriate to use domestic prices and costs in the People’s Republic of China and outlined the State funding benefiting the Chinese aerial platform industry, and the fact that there is a substantial degree of State ownership in the China sector.

The commission said the complainant provided evidence that imports of the product under investigation from the country concerned have increased overall in absolute terms and in terms of market share.

“The evidence provided by the complainant shows that the volume and the prices of the imported product under investigation have had, among other consequences, a negative impact on the quantities sold, the level of prices charged and the market share held by the Union industry, resulting in substantial adverse effects on the overall performance and the financial situation.”

‘Sufficient evidence’

In addition the EC said, the complainant had provided sufficient evidence that there may be raw material distortions in the country concerned regarding the product under investigation.

“According to the evidence in the complaint the hot-rolled steel that is used to produce MAE, and which accounts for at least 17% of the cost of production of the product under investigation, is subject to no VAT export refund in the country concerned… The complaint establishes that the raw material distortions appear to result in prices significantly below those of representative international markets.”

The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation to examine the alleged distortions to assess whether duty lower than the margin of dumping would be sufficient to remove injury.

Likewise, investigations by the UK TRA were launched with the publication of notices of initiation of the anti-dumping (case AD0047) and anti-subsidy (case AS0046) investigations.

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