China's Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao warned Brussels over 'green' tech inquiries. (Lukas Coch - Pool/Getty Images)


China’s trade minister warns EU over ‘green’ tech probes


China’s top trade official warned Brussels against protectionism, saying Beijing was puzzled by European Union inquiries into “green” technology exports and the bloc’s concerns they threaten the domestic solar panel, wind-turbine and electric vehicle (EV) industries.

Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao is travelling through Europe for discussions about the European Commission’s investigation into whether China’s EV industry has benefited from unfair subsidies.

“We fail to understand how the EU Commission carries the banner of sustainable and green development and then takes protectionist actions, thereby in effect generating more and more risks,” Wang said on April 12 in some of his first public comments during the European trip.

Speaking at a trade and business conference in the northern Italian city of Verona, he cited the EU’s investigations into Chinese electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines as examples.

“We must oppose unilateralism and protectionism and protect the global supply chain,” the minister said.

On April 8, Wang was in France where he met French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Two days later, Brussels launched a preliminary review of possible market distortions by Chinese wind-turbine makers. The EC could choose to prohibit transactions or disqualify bids in public tenders.

In its EV investigation, the EC is expected to decide whether to impose provisional duties by June 5. It would then publish an initial list of companies affected and decide on definitive duties by early November.

European policymakers are keen to avoid a repeat of what happened with solar panels a decade ago when the EU took no action to curb Chinese imports and many European manufacturers collapsed.

Addressing the Verona conference, Italy’s Industry Minister and former Commissioner Antonio Tajani said the EC needed to prevent what he called “environmental dumping”, a reference to selling “green” technology below the domestic price to gain market share.

He also called for increased trade exchanges and investments between Italy and China.

Italy seeks inward investment while Chinese car makers, pursuing sales of their lower-cost, mostly electric, vehicles in the region are seeking to set up manufacturing sites in Europe.

China’s BYD has already announced plans to build a facility in Hungary, while rival Chery Auto might pick Spain or Italy for a similar investment.

Tajani reiterated Italy was keen to find “new opportunities” for auto manufacturers investing in the country, besides Stellantis, Italy’s sole major auto-maker.

Wang said China and Italy had to expand mutual investments.

“We need to think of new opportunities to address growing bilateral investments, beyond traditional sectors,” he said, citing “high-end manufacturing” as a possible area.