EU anti-dumping investigation into Chinese platform manufacturers
Two French aerial work platform manufacturers - Manitou and Haulotte - have issued statements this evening acknowledging the opening of an ‘anti-dumping’ investigation by the European Commission.
The investigation concerns the imports of Chinese self-propelled aerial work platforms with working heights of more than six metres.
The official complaint was published in the Official Journal of the European Union
The complainant is listed as the Coalition to restore a level playing field in the EU Mobile Access Equipment Sector
. The identity of the members of this coalition is not made clear. The complaint states that it is not appropriate to use domestic prices or costs in China in order to judge whether ‘dumping’ (selling at below cost) has occurred or not, “due to the existence of significant distortions within the meaning of point (b) of Article 2(6a) of the basic Regulation”.
The complainants filed their complaint with the European Commission on September 29th and the Commission has now decided that there may be a case to answer.
All interested parties now have an opportunity to present information, comment or request a physical representation. Once all the information is submitted, the Commission will decide if the case is proven before making a judgement, which will be based on the overriding interests of the European Union.
A statement from Manitou said: “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 on the EU industry. The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation, as authorised by the rules of the World Trade Organisation, to re-establish a level playing field for all actors on the EU market.”
Chief executive Michel Denis added: “We welcome the launch of this investigation. Fair competition in 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.”
A statement from Haulotte was almost exactly the same - word for word - but chief executive Alexandre SAUBOT, said: “We welcome the initiation of this investigation as a fair trade competition on the European market is the prerequisite to secure the sustainability of our business models. We are therefore calling for swift and effective actions to ensure that our activities and that of hundreds of our industrial partners in the EU keep their ability to protect jobs, keep on innovating and continue serving our customers at its best across the EU.”
To see the official complaint click here
After publication we received the following from one of the privately held Chinese manufacturers Sinoboom: “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”.
This is an interesting development. It seems, at least on the surface, that that those filing the complaint are aware that the usual measures of comparing selling price versus costs or sales prices in the offenders’ home market against those in the EU, will not cut it. Instead, they point to distortions in the Chinese market, including the fact that some companies have at least a degree of state ownership and that items such as rolled steel are subsidised or prices distorted. There is no mention that some components, including high quality steels are imported from Europe.
There is also a reference to strong and unusual market share shifts from Western to Chinese manufacturers, which is a fact. However, there may have been other factors at play during the period covered by the investigation (October 2022 to September 2023) such as longer lead times for European or North American equipment than for Chinese machines. There may also be a case that, in some market sectors, such as big electric booms, the Chinese may be the only show in town, at least for now. It’s also true that, in some cases, such as the new ‘no oil’ machines, the few western suppliers in this market have applied super-premium pricing levels, making the Chinese alternatives a very attractive and profitable alternative.
In summary, filing such complaints can backfire on those making them, unless the case is well proven and thoroughly justified. Previous examples have not exactly achieved this, causing anger among the customers of the manufacturers that raised the original complaint. Fair trade and a level playing field are very important to all of us. It is true that Chinese manufacturers have gained a substantial share of the European market, far more quickly than is usual. As already mentioned, a greater market share can be due to more than lower prices. Although in some cases, such as the top end of the scissor lift market companies have been obliged to cease trading.
It should also be pointed out that most manufacturers have used introductory prices to break into a market at one time or another, although once a bridgehead is established, they tend to increase them. As far as state aid is concerned, most countries provide some sort of aid on one level or another at some point in a market’s development, whether that be tax breaks, free ports or funding grants to set up a new factory.
If this investigation is carried out correctly and diligently so that its findings are seen to be based on facts, then it will be a good thing and should be applauded and we should all endeavour to make it so. If, on the other hand, the process is distorted and used purely as a protectionist measure, then that would be a bad thing and will only serve to raise prices higher than the free market would normally have done, thereby penalising end users, and in particular rental companies. That will place pressure on margins and raise prices for everyone.