The petition read:
“Almost all bicycles sold in the UK are manufactured in the Far East. UK manufacturing on any large scale ended some time ago. Bicycles are subject to an import duty of 14 percent which, when compared to consumer electronics rates of near zero, is bonkers. We have childhood obesity issues, congestion, global warming and an aging population that needs exercise. The bicycle has a role to play in the resolution of all these issues. It seems crazy that the tax regime encourages a kid to sit in front of a bicycle extreme sports computer game rather than go out and ride his bike.”
The Government's response was straightforward: import duties stay until after the current long-running world trade negotiations have been settled.
"Import duties are set at the level of the European Community (EC) and the United Kingdom Government cannot unilaterally raise or lower them.
"The levels of import duty that are currently in place reflect what it has been possible to negotiate during various multilateral trade negotiations. The most recently completed round was the so-called Uruguay Round which was concluded in 1994.
"Such negotiations are, in effect, a series of separate but related talks on a number of issues that impact on global trade. As such, nothing can be implemented until everything is agreed.
"The current round of trade negotiations – known as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) – is taking place at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Progress is regrettably slow. Lack of consensus on how to treat trade in agricultural goods has impacted negatively on all other elements of the negotiations – including talks on a tariff reducing formula. If the current round is concluded, the Government is hopeful that the import duty on bicycles will fall progressively to a level less than half the current 14%.
"The Government fully supports the aims and objectives of the DDA because a successful liberal outcome will be good for consumers and business in developing and developed countries. To this end we are working closely with other EC member states and all other WTO member countries."
A drop in import duty would have been welcomed by many EU bicycle suppliers. One told BikeBiz.com:
"There are massive price increases on the way for 2009 model year. The increases are between 13 to 20 percent and if suppliers could claw back 7 percent everybody would be in better shape."