Zhou Jinzhu, Deputy Director and Associate Researcher of International Trade Research Department, Research Institute of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade
The COVID-19 epidemic in 2020 has affected all people and all countries. It has not only changed the way people work and live, but also reshaped the pattern of world economic development to a certain extent.
Under the impact of the epidemic, the structure of the EU’s foreign trade has changed greatly, showing three major characteristics: first, China has become the largest trading partner of the EU, second, China is the EU’s only positive growth major trading partner, and third, the resilience of EU internal trade is better than foreign trade.
China jumps to the EU’s largest trading partner
In 2020, the total trade between the EU and China was 58.06.32 billion euros, an increase of 4.46% year-on-year. China accounted for 16.07 percent of the EU’s total foreign trade, an increase of 2.3 percentage points year-on-year. China became the largest trading partner of the EU. The United States and the United Kingdom account for 15.22% and 12.20% of the EU’s total foreign trade, respectively, making them the second and third largest trading partners of the EU.
In February and March, China, the most serious epidemic, fell to the third largest trading partner of the European Union. In April, with the promotion of China’s resumption of work and production and market, and the spread of the epidemic worldwide, China jumped to become the largest trading partner of the EU and remained until December 2020. The United States has been reduced to the second largest trading partner of the European Union from April until the end of 2020.
EU trading partner ranking chart in 2020
Data source: Eurostat.
China is the only major trading partner of the EU with positive growth.
In 2020, among the top ten goods trading partners of the EU, China is the only trading partner to achieve two-way trade growth, and China’s share in the EU import and export market has increased.
Although China is the largest trading partner of the EU in terms of total imports and exports, China is only the largest source of imports in the EU, ranking only third in the EU export market.
Since the epidemic, the proportion structure of the EU’s major import source countries has changed slightly, and China’s share has continued to rise. In 2020, the EU imported 383.519 billion euros from China, an increase of 5.72% year-on-year, accounting for 22.37% of total EU imports, an increase of 3.65 percentage points year-on-year.
The EU imports from the United States 20.049 million euros, down 13.22% year-on-year, accounting for 11.79% of total EU imports, a decrease of 0.23 percentage points year-on-year. The United Kingdom is the third largest source of imports in the European Union, and the volume and proportion of trade also declined in 2020.
Changes in the proportion of import source countries in the EU in 2020
Data source: Eurostat.
The market share of the EU’s main exports has changed slightly. Although China’s position as the EU’s third largest export market has not changed, its share has increased. In 2020, EU exports to China reached 20,514 billion euros, an increase of 2.14 percent year-on-year, accounting for 10.48% of total EU exports, an increase of 1.19 percentage points year-on-year.
The United States is the largest export market of the European Union. In 2020, the European Union exported 35.25.99 billion euros to the United States.
Although it fell by 8.19 percentage points year-on-year due to the epidemic, the proportion of the United States in the total EU exports still reached 18.27%, a slight increase of 0.24 from 2019. Percentage point.
The United Kingdom is the second largest export market in the European Union. Affected by the impact of the epidemic and the combination of Brexit, the EU exported 277.534 billion euros to the United Kingdom in 2020, a year-on-year decrease of 13.11%. The UK’s share of total EU exports was 14.37%, a year-on-year decrease of 0.61 percentage points. .
Changes in the proportion of the EU export market in 2020
Data source: Eurostat.
The internal trade of the European Union is more resilient than foreign trade.
In the same period when the COVID-19 epidemic hit EU trade, the EU also superimposed the Brexit factor, but it is obvious that the pressure resistance of intra-EU trade is better than that of EU foreign trade.
In 2020, the EU achieved a total of 364.586 billion euros in foreign trade, a year-on-year decrease of 10.43%; the total intra-EU trade was 5620,362 billion euros, a year-on-year decrease of 7.37 percent.
Whether in terms of the absolute value of trade and the shrinkage affected by the shock, intra-EU trade Both show stronger resilience than foreign trade.
After the epidemic, China and Europe have common cooperation needs in the digital economy and the green economy.
In 2020, in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic ravaging the world and the world economy falling into a severe recession, China-EU relations went against the trend in the epidemic.
The two sides officially signed the Agreement on the Protection and Cooperation of Geographical Indications between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the European Union, which is the first large-scale mutual recognition of geographical indications between China and the EU.
It is of milestone significance for deepening China-EU economic and trade cooperation, and also lays the foundation for the subsequent conclusion of China-EU investment agreements.
At the end of December 2020, China and the EU completed the China-EU investment agreement negotiations on schedule and reached a balanced, high-level, mutually beneficial and win-win investment agreement, which covers far beyond traditional bilateral investment agreements.
The results of the negotiations cover market access commitments, fair competition rules, sustainable development and dispute settlement. Content. At the same time, in 2020, when the global maritime and shipping capacity has seriously declined due to the epidemic, China-EU trains have grown against the trend, and the transportation advantages have gradually emerged, becoming an important transportation channel for epidemic prevention materials, and also providing important support for stabilizing the China-EU supply chain and trading system. In 2020, China-EU trains opened a total of 12,400 trains and shipped 1.135 million bidding boxes, an increase of 50% and 56% year-on-year, respectively.
Under the background of the continuous epidemic, the change of consumption habits and life concepts will promote industries to accelerate the digital transformation, and also put forward higher requirements for the network infrastructure and digital technology application capabilities of various countries.
China and the European Union all have the technical basis for cooperation in network infrastructure, scientific and technological talent reserve and innovation ability. The two sides also have a common demand to promote the development of the digital economy. If a consensus can be formed in the “post-epidemic era” and jointly explore the space for development, digital economic cooperation will have great development potential.
China and Europe are all focusing on green development. The European Union insists on implementing the “European Green Agreement” as an important task in the process of economic recovery of various countries.
China’s economic recovery and stimulus plan has launched, investing in key areas such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure, renewable energy, healthier cities and so on. China and the EU have a wide range of cooperation needs in deepening environmental technology, circular economy, clean energy, sustainable finance and other fields.
Starting from this year, China began to implement the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and embarked on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in an all-round way.
Entering the new stage of development, China will accelerate the construction of a new development pattern with the domestic cycle as the main body and the domestic and international double cycle promoting each other.
China’s ultra-large-scale market and domestic demand potential composed of 1.4 billion people and more than 400 million middle-income groups will be fully released, creating more demand and opportunities for the world, and also opening up more space for China-EU cooperation.