Wednesday

16th Jun 2021

EU seeks protection from Chinese ‘market economy’

  • Chinese steel overcapacity and exports are hurting European buinesses. (Photo: Renate Meijer)

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom signalled openness to recognising China as a market economy, but said the EU was looking into the implications and which rules could be used to protect European businesses from excessive dumping of cheap goods by China.

“It is not about determining if China is a market economy or not. It is about the situation where we have to decide how to calculate anti-dumping duties,” Malmstrom said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“We must look at the legal implications, and other possible ways, not to say only yes and no,” the commissioner said at an event on Thursday (28 January) in Brussels, admitting that there was irritation with China’s practice, with 32 cases launched against China on steel already.

The EU Commission held its first orientation debate earlier this month on whether the EU should recognise China as a market economy by December, and will come back to the issue during the summer.

Beijing argues that its designation as market economy should be granted automatically in accordance with the pact it entered into when joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.

China says that under the 2001 deal, WTO members pledged to recognise the country as a market economy in dumping cases beginning in December 2016.

It would make it harder for Europe to impose anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods sold at low prices, as it would change the criteria for determining a “fair price”.

Malmstrom highlighted the Chinese overcapacity in steel production as an example, which is being exported at a low cost to Europe, as demand at home is low.

“Adjusting supply would be the real reform for China,” she said.

“Urgent reforms are needed for deepening the relationship, and the EU will support China in this,” the Swedish commissioner pledged.

China makes half of the world’s 1,6 billion tonnes of steel and has an overcapacity of 400 million tonnes, twice the EU’s output. Exports to the EU have doubled over the last 18 months.

No profit?

The debate over China’s market economy status is a highly political one, as it affects jobs, while Europe continues to recover from years of slow growth and high unemployment.

Jo Leinen, a German MEP who chairs the European Parliament's delegation for relations with China, warned that the EP would today refuse to agree if there was no equivalent trade protection measure.

The EU Parliament and member states need to approve any changes to the bloc’s treatment of China in dumping cases.

He pointed to the German steel sector, which already has predicted no profit for 2016, as China dumps cheap steel in Europe, and anti-dumping measures can take over a year to kick in.

“China is an elephant in the room, and what China does is effecting all of us,” Leinen said.

“We are concerned to give automatically this year China market economy status,” Leinen said, adding however that he was in favour of letting China participate in international organisations.

Leinen suggested looking into the EU's response when Russia joined the WTO, or the measures Australia used with China, namely finding sectors where the country did not run a market economy.

Malmstrom faces questioning from MEPs on the matter on Monday.

Divided EU debates China market economy status

The EU Commission will, on Wednesday, debate the sensitive issue of China “market economy status,” with nerves jangling in European industry over cheap Chinese goods.

EU tells China to let in WHO team to study Covid origins

The EU has demanded China cooperate with the international community to understand better the pandemic, after Chinese officials blocked the arrival of a group of World Health Organization (WHO) researchers investigating the origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan.

EU tells China to prove investment deal is worthwhile

"China has to convince us that it is worth having an agreement," EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, telling China to move on key reciprocity issues on the planned bilateral investment agreement.

News in Brief

  1. China calls Nato statement 'slander'
  2. Israel bombs Gaza after Hamas responds to far-right march
  3. Kosovo and Serbia resume EU-brokered talks
  4. IKEA fined €1m for spying on French employees
  5. Markets snap up €20bn of new EU recovery bonds
  6. German court to test European Defence Fund legality
  7. Climate crisis may hit Europe's coffee and chocolate imports
  8. EU top court affirms national data watchdogs' power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU and US make peace on trade before Russia summit
  2. Hungary passes anti-LGBTIQ bill ahead of 2022 election
  3. Prisoners, homeless, migrants, 'overlooked' in EU vaccine race
  4. EU must treat homeless as rights-holders, not criminals
  5. China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato
  6. German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains
  7. EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues
  8. MEPs urged to end gas-funding, fix cross-border projects rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us