Already in autumn 2019, the European Commission had ordered in an implementing regulation a provisional anti-dumping duty on imports of steel wheels from China for road vehicles.
Now, in April 2020, the European Commission has imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on imports of the product concerned. Companies will have to pay anti-dumping duties on the vehicle wheels concerned from China of up to 66.4% of the value of the product.
However, there is also the possibility for certain companies to benefit from reduced duty rates if the correct documents are provided.
Steel road wheels from China affected
The steel wheels from China, which are designed for use on the road, some of which are fitted with accessories and/or tyres, are subject to the anti-dumping duties and are intended for the following vehicles
- road tractors
- Cars and trucks
- Special purpose motor vehicles, e.g. fire engines, road sprinkler vehicles
- Non-self-propelled trailers or semi-trailers of the above-mentioned vehicles
The product concerned is currently classified under tariff headings 8708 70 10, 8708 70 99 and 8716 90 90 (TARIC codes 8708 70 10 80, 8708 70 10 85, 8708 70 99 20, 8708 70 99 80, 8716 90 90 95 and 8716 90 90 97).
However, the following product is NOT covered:
- Steel wheels for the industrial assembly of single-axle tractors, currently classifiable within customs tariff heading 8701 10
- Wheels for street quads
- one-piece cast wheel parts in star-shaped steel
- Wheels for motor vehicles specifically designed for uses other than public road transport, such as wheels for agricultural or forestry tractors, forklift trucks, pushback tractors or dumpers, which are designed for off-road use
- Wheels for non-self-propelled car trailers and caravans with a rim diameter of 16 inches or less
- Wheels for trailers or semi-trailers specially designed for uses other than public road transport, e.g. wheels for agricultural trailers and other towed agricultural equipment used in agriculture
Disagreement on product definition
In the context of the implementing regulation imposing a provisional anti-dumping duty, there were still some uncertainties regarding the definition and delineation of the product concerned.
The Commission confirmed, correcting TARIC code 8716 90 90 97, that wheels for wheelbarrows and hand trucks were not covered by the investigation.
Furthermore, the Commission made it explicitly clear that wheels not designed for use on public roads are not covered by the anti-dumping measures. Thus, steel wheels for agricultural trailers or semi-trailers would not be included, regardless of their rim diameter. “Wheels for use on construction vehicles” would also not be covered by the product definition.
One producer criticised the fact that the Commission based its product definition on the actual use and application of the wheels in road transport. Distinguishing factors such as speed and load were more appropriate.
The Commission classified the criticism only as a proposal to be able to describe the wheels concerned differently for cars, trucks and other vehicles in road transport and therefore continues to maintain its own product definition. Speed was not a relevant factor in determining the product definition, the Commission said.
It also confirmed that steel replacement wheels for passenger cars would continue to be covered by the measures. Manufacturers had criticised that these could not be used as normal wheels as they were limited to a speed of 80 km/h. The Commission took a different view. Again, the Commission pointed out that speed limitation was irrelevant for the product definition.
Further criticism was expressed by the producers concerned regarding the lack of technical definitions of the products excluded from the measures. Furthermore, there was no procedure whereby Union customs officials and the Commission services confirmed the exclusion of certain products. The Commission rejected this objection on the basis of existing procedures.
Another claim concerned steel wheels used on winter tyres of passenger cars, which are, inter alia, designed to be fitted to several models of vehicle. However, the Commission found that the “universal” car wheel had the same basic physical and technical characteristics as other products concerned and is therefore covered by the measures.
The anti-dumping duties are imposed because of the continuing dumping and subsidisation in China, particularly in the steel and automotive sectors. It is alleged that the Chinese authorities have been found to influence the prices or costs of steel wheels, including the cost of raw materials, energy and labour, through State interference in the free economy. A “free play of market forces” and fair competition are therefore no longer guaranteed.
At the beginning of 2019, the European Commission had initiated an anti-dumping investigation. The background to this was a complaint lodged by the Association of European Wheel Manufacturers which showed that the industry had suffered material injury caused by dumping. However, no registration was made, as the volume of imports of steel wheels from China had previously fallen significantly.
Circumvention of anti-dumping duties is a criminal offence
If there is already a justified request for back-payment of anti-dumping duties on wheels for vehicles from China, this obligation must in any case be respected.
Illegal circumvention or evasion of anti-dumping duties by declaring the wrong tariff codes, for example, regularly constitutes a customs offence. The consequence is then a criminal investigation by the customs investigation office, often against the parties involved and the management.