China’s commerce minister due in Paris for EV talks

Paris — China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao is due in Paris Sunday for talks that are expected to cover China’s fast-growing export of cheap electric vehicles (EVs) into the European market.

Four sources briefed on Wang’s trip told Reuters in late March that the discussions would focus on a European Commission investigation into whether China’s EV industry has benefited from unfair subsidies.

European carmakers have a fight on their hands to produce lower-cost electric vehicles and erase China’s lead in developing cheaper models.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm which forecasts China’s share of EVs sold in Europe could reach 15% of the market in 2025, says Chinese EVs benefit from huge state subsidies and is examining whether to impose punitive tariffs.

China contests the claim its EV industry has boomed because of subsidies and has called the EU inquiry “protectionist.” Analysts say factors, including China’s dominance of the battery supply chain, innovation and cut-throat competition in a crowded domestic market have also reduced prices.

Wang is due Sunday to meet Renault chief executive Luca de Meo, who is also acting chairman of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), a person briefed on the meeting said.

He is also expected to attend a dinner later Sunday with executives from the cosmetics industry, two other sources familiar with the plans said.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said he will hold talks with Wang on Monday. The Chinese trade ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

European Commission investigators inspected leading Chinese automakers BYD, Geely Automobile Holdings and SAIC earlier this year as part of their inquiries. Paris backed the anti-subsidy probe.

BYD’s Europe chief executive Michael Shu will accompany Wang during his trip, said a person briefed on the matter. Representatives of SAIC and Geely were also due to accompany Wang, Reuters reported last month.

BYD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China launched its own anti-dumping investigation into brandy in January in response to Europe’s EV probe. France accounts for almost all EU brandy exports to China.

Wang will meet Monday with the Bureau National Interprofessional du Cognac (BNIC), a brandy trade group, along with company executives, said an association official.

China has said it is selecting Martell & Co, Societe Jas Hennessy & Co, and E. Remy Martin & Co as sample companies for its own investigation.

Wang will also attend a China-Italy business forum Friday in Verona, Italy, alongside the country’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, the Italian government said.

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