China becomes EU’s biggest trade partner in 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen via video link in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 30, 2020. During the meeting, Xi and the European leaders announced that the two sides have completed investment agreement negotiations as scheduled. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)

BRUSSELS,  (Xinhua) – China became the main trade partner of the European Union (EU) in 2020, with exports and imports both increasing despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurostat said on Monday.

According to the EU’s statistical service, the bloc’s imports from China throughout the year 2020 grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year to 383.5 billion euros (465 billion US dollars), and exports grew by 2.2 percent to 202.5 billion euros.

At the same time, the trade in goods with the United States, which had topped the EU’s trade partners list until early 2020, saw substantial decline in both ways.

The EU also witnessed higher trade volume with the rest of the world in December 2020, up by 6.6 billion euros from the same month in 2019, a first year-on-year increase since it was hit by the pandemic.

The single market suffered a decrease of 9.4 percent in exports of goods and 11.6 percent decrease in imports in 2020. With industries largely affected by the containment measures last year, energy recorded by far the sharpest drop among all sectors, followed by food and drink, raw materials and chemicals.

Workers load a container onto a train at Urumqi China-Europe Railway Express Hub in Urumqi, capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, March 12, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Fei)

The Eurostat release on Monday coincided with China’s official data published in mid-January, which showed the trade with the EU grew by 5.3 percent to 4495.77 billion yuan, or nearly 600 billion euros, in 2020.

While China’s total goods imports and exports expanded 1.9 percent year on year to 32.16 trillion yuan (about 5 trillion US dollars) in 2020, hitting a record high, the surge in trade with the EU was more than double the average growth rate.

The result fully speaks for “the strong resilience and importance of China-EU economic and trade cooperation,” said Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, at a webinar last month with the European thinktank, Friends of Europe.