European carmakers cry foul over trade

VW car production
Image caption European carmakers want 'a level playing field'

The European motor industry has called for non-European governments to scale back assistance for their own automotive industries.

But at the same time, they say they want more government support at home.

Governments in Europe should support the industry's efforts to cut car emissions, European car maker bosses agreed during a meeting in London.

But other governments should remove tariffs and other barriers to trade, they said.

Infrastructure and research

The seemingly contradictory positions taken by the chief executives, during a board meeting of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, may not be as outlandish as it first seems.

The assistance the carmakers want at home relates to issues like like funding a national roll-out of the power charging infrastructure for electric cars.

They have also called for short-term assistance with research and development into electric cars and other new technologies.

Image caption Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche is calling for a level playing field.

"We in the industry have to take the lead," said Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Daimler and president of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association ACEA.

He said European carmakers would invest billions of euros in green technologies.

"In Germany alone, the automotive industry will invest about 16 bn euros," he said.

"Over the next five years we will see no return on that investment."

'We don't get access'

The car chiefs say import tariffs and other barriers to trade - notably in India, China, South Korea and other large emerging markets for cars - should be scaled back.

The tariffs make it difficult for European exporters to compete with domestic manufacturers.

For example, India exports 250,000 cars to Europe every year, but only imports 5,000 vehicles from Europe, according to Paul Everitt, chief executive of the UK motor industry group SMMT.

And he said Japan should also do more to open up its market to imports.

"Our vision is for us to design, develop and manufacture high-value vehicles to export around the world.That is difficult if we don't get access."

Mr Zetsche said he was convinced the European motor industry was the most advanced in the world, and would be perfectly able to compete globally in a truly free market.

"We are asking for a level playing field," he said.

Economic health

Developing countries often insist they need to protect their strategically important embryonic growth industries against powerful rivals from industrialised countries, in part because they want to create economic growth and reduce poverty at home.

Although this might be fair in some instances, said Mr Everitt, carmakers in India, China and South Korea were both large and resourceful and should no longer need protection.

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association points to its importance to the economic health of Europe and has urged EU governments to treat it as a strategic industry.

"Eight million jobs are related to the automotive industry in Europe, 700,000 of them here in the UK," Mr Zetsche said.

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