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Elon Musk attacks Biden’s tariffs on Chinese electric cars

Mr Musk says anything that inhibits freedom of exchange or distorts the market is 'not good'
Mr Musk says anything that inhibits freedom of exchange or distorts the market is 'not good' - Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Elon Musk has attacked Joe Biden’s plans for a 100pc tariff on electric cars made in China despite Tesla potentially being poised to benefit from the levy.

Mr Musk told a technology conference in Paris that he preferred “no tariffs” when asked how the US president’s recent policies would affect Tesla.

Earlier this month, Mr Biden said he would raise import duties on Chinese electric vehicles from 25pc to 100pc as well as increasing taxes on components such as batteries.

The move could boost Tesla, America’s biggest seller of electric cars, and protect it from competitors such as BYD, the Chinese manufacturer which has threatened to dramatically undercut Mr Musk’s company.

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“Neither Tesla nor I asked for these tariffs, I was surprised when they announced,” Mr Musk told the Viva Tech conference.

“Tesla competes quite well in the market in China with no tariffs and no differential support, in general I’m in favour of no tariffs. I’m also actually in favour of no tax incentives for EVs, provided also that the tax incentives for oil and gas must also be eliminated.

“I’m in favour of no tariffs and no incentives for electric vehicles or for oil and gas, and if they were all taken away I think that would be for the best. Things that inhibit freedom of exchange or distort the market are not good.”

Mr Musk, a frequent critic of Mr Biden, has benefited from heavy incentives on electric cars introduced by the administration.

China accused the White House of “undermining fair trade and environmental protection” after the tariffs were confirmed last week. It has threatened to retaliate, although it is unclear if this could affect US carmakers like Tesla.

Companies such as BYD charge under $10,000 (£7,870) for their cheapest cars in China, well below Western manufacturers.

Mr Musk is keen to maintain good relationships with Beijing, recently visiting China in an attempt to push through approval for Tesla’s self-driving system. The company’s sales in the country have suffered in recent months amid growing competition.

Tesla recently said it would speed up plans to launch a cheaper, mass-market vehicle which would be more capable of competing with Chinese rivals. However, the company is increasingly focusing on driverless car technology and is expected to unveil a fully-autonomous “robotaxi” in August.

European industry figures earlier this week showed that Tesla’s sales in the UK and Europe had fallen by 8pc in the first four months of the year.