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Western Tariffs a ‘Challenge’ for China’s Battery Giant CATL

Jun Ni, Chief Manufacturing Officer for Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) company, speaks during an AFP interview at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC24) in Dalian, in China's northeastern Liaoning province, on June 27, 2024. Pedro Pardo / AFP

By Agatha Cantrill

An executive from China’s battery giant CATL said on Thursday that Western tariffs tied to electric vehicles present a “challenge” for the firm and are bad for customers as well.

Citing unfair competition, the European Union is due to impose hefty tariffs on Chinese-made EVs by July 4 after Washington increased duties on the sector last month.

Canada suggested this week it might also follow suit.

CATL is a major player in the market as the world’s top producer of EV batteries, having signed deals with carmakers including Tesla, Stellantis and BMW.

“I will say this is a challenge,” said Ni Jun, CATL’s chief manufacturing officer.

“I believe (the tariffs are) not good for the consumer,” he told AFP at a World Economic Forum event in the northern city of Dalian.

“Whether you are a European consumer or Asian consumer, we want to have affordable products, high quality, (that) can save the planet,” he said.

CATL has been helped by robust financial support from Beijing, which has prioritized the development of domestic high-tech industries that it views as strategically advantageous.

“China invests heavily in lithium-ion battery research, development, and production,” Ni said.

Such support is the source of complaints from Western governments about unfair competition.

Many of the vehicles affected by tariffs are fitted with batteries from CATL, which is aiming to ramp up its operations in Europe next year.

Based in the coastal Chinese city of Ningde, the company is currently building a second European factory in Hungary.

At home, the firm’s success in recent years has been galvanized by rapid growth in the domestic market.

Ni said China had seen “a massive introduction” of personal car ownership over the past 30 years and the establishment of “the capability, the entire supply ecosystem” for EVs.

This gave Chinese firms a huge advantage in the global shift towards green transport.

“There’s already capability for China to go quickly,” he said.

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