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EU and China Clash on Bikes Cause Collapse of WTO Trade Talks

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GENEVA, Switzerland – It’s about an import value of some 25 million euro for about half a million cheap bicycles imported from China into the European Union. It caused the collapse of trade talks involving more than one trillion US dollar. Again the EU and China clashed on the import of bicycles. It ended this year’s talks for an Environmental Goods Agreement which are to be resumed in 2017.

EU and China Clash on Bikes Cause Collapse of WTO Trade Talks
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström ‘bicycles became symbolic for China’. – Photo WTO

Last weekend Ministers and senior officials from the 18 participants in the Environmental Goods Agreement, representing 46 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), met in Geneva to work towards liberalising trade on a range of important environmental goods. “Constructive talks were held and progress was made, but participants were not in a position to close the existing gaps at this point. The intensive discussions set the stage for further talks in the near future,” reported the WTO.

Global environmental trade deal

Since January 2014 the 18 participants are engaged in negotiations to slash duties on products used in a variety of environmentally-related functions including: generating clean and renewable energy; improving energy and resource efficiency; reducing air, water and soil pollution; managing solid and hazardous waste; noise abatement; and monitoring environmental quality. These talks ended without reaching a global environmental trade deal as China came up with very late demands.

Bicycles symbolic for China

These demands included (among other products) the European import of bicycles made in China. European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told press agency Reuters that bicycles had become symbolic for China and that this proved to be a stumbling block due to European resistance to Chinese bicycle imports. She added that the EU had “quite cheap bicycles already.”

Agreement impossible

Malmström who was co-chair of the talks also said, “Had China’s list come earlier we could have worked on this. But now this made it impossible to find an agreement, we were too far away from each other.”

China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that China had made great efforts to show the flexibility needed to effectively solve the participants’ core concerns, but the meeting failed due to “differences on key issues”.

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