Minister of Commerce of the People's Republic of China Wang Wentao. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MEO


China warns EU of potential trade war over ‘unfair’ electric cars probe


China’s commerce minister Wang Wentao warned that escalating tensions with the European Union could lead to a “trade war”.

On June 21, he accused the bloc of unfair practices over its eight-month anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles (EVs).

The European Commission on June 12 suggested imposing tariffs as high as 38.1 per cent on EV imports from China, despite protests from Beijing.

That pushed already strained trade relations to a new low and raised the possibility of retaliatory measures from Beijing.

According to a statement from a spokesperson for China’s commerce ministry, quoted by Reuters: “The European side persists in escalating trade tensions and risks inciting a ‘trade war’. The entire responsibility rests with the European side.”

The statement was released approximately an hour before the arrival of German economy minister Robert Habeck in the Chinese capital.

During his visit, he is anticipated to clarify the recent tariff announcement and endeavour to mitigate the possibilities of retaliation that could adversely affect German businesses.

On June 18, Chinese automakers called on Beijing to hit back by increasing tariffs on large-engine petrol-powered cars imported from Europe.

The German automotive industry is the strongest on the European continent and the most affected by Chinese competition in the EV sector.

German carmakers would face the greatest risk from any retaliatory actions from China, given that nearly a third of their sales came from that country last year.

In 2023, EU car exports to China amounted to €19.4 billion, while the bloc imported EVs worth €9.7 billion from China, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics agency.