EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced an anti-subsidy probe into Chinese electric vehicles on Wednesday, presenting herself as a champion of European business as she defended her track record ahead of elections next year.
Von der Leyen, who is widely expected to seek a second term as head of the EU executive next year but has yet to announce her plans, promised in her annual state of the union speech to take steps to help Europe’s wind industry, make business easier for small companies and address labor shortages.
“Europe will do whatever it takes to keep its competitive edge,” she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“In a world of uncertainty, Europe once again must answer the call of history,” the 64-year-old former German defense minister told EU lawmakers, saying this applied to a wide array of policies, including the EU’s support for Ukraine, promotion of green energy and defense of business against unfair competition.
In a speech that announced few concrete steps on the foreign policy front – Ukraine, she said, must do more before joining the bloc – the most substantial announcement was the launch of the probe into China’s electric vehicles.
The Commission, she said, would investigate whether to impose punitive tariffs to protect European Union producers against cheaper Chinese electric vehicle imports it says are benefiting from excessive state subsidies.
“Europe is open to competition. Not for a race to the bottom,” she said.
Von der Leyen, who has been at the head of the bloc’s executive Commission since the end of 2019, also said she would appoint an envoy to help small and medium-sized enterprises tackle red tape to make it easier to do business.