China’s commerce minister reportedly began a trip to Europe by telling his country’s top carmakers US and European assertions of Chinese excess EV capacity were baseless and that innovation and “perfect” supply chains were behind their performance.

Wang Wentao held a round table meeting in Paris with representatives of 10 Chinese EV firms including BYD, opens new tab, CATL, and Geely, ahead of talks on a European probe into whether Chinese EVs had benefited from unfair subsidies, Reuters said.

Wang reiterated Beijing’s stance Chinese EV makers did not depend on subsidies to gain a competitive advantage, according to a statement from the commerce ministry seen by the news agency.

“China’s electric vehicle companies rely on continuous technological innovation, perfect production and supply chain system and full market competition for rapid development, [and don’t rely] on subsidies to gain competitive advantage,” Wang said.

He added the Chinese government would actively support firms to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.

Four sources told Reuters in late March the discussions would focus on the European Commission investigation which began late last year and aimed to determine whether to impose tariffs on Chinese exports to protect European car makers.

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China has a significant lead over European companies in developing low-cost EV models in particular, Reuters noted.

The investigation was due to conclude by November, although the EU executive could impose provisional duties earlier.

According to the report, Wang also met Renault chief executive Luca de Meo, who is also acting chairman of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

De Meo stressed the importance of “reciprocity” and told Wang the Chinese should bring more of their supply chain to continental Europe, a Reuters source said.

De Meo invited Wang to consider joint R&D projects for future technology such as next generation batteries, the source added.

Chinese officials have said the criticism understates innovation by Chinese companies in key industries and overstates the importance of state support in driving their growth. They also argued tariffs or other trade restrictions would deprive consumers elsewhere of green energy alternatives seen as key to meeting global climate goals.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire had said he would hold talks with Wang during his visit.

Meanwhile, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen warned China Washington would not accept new industries being decimated by Chinese imports as she concluded four days of talks to press her case for Beijing to rein in excess industrial capacity, Reuters added.