While the global economy is facing increasing uncertainty and sluggish growth due to the COVID-19 epidemic, economic and trade cooperation between China and Europe, which maintains a strong momentum based on complementarity and mutual benefit, can act as a balancing force and contribute to stabilizing the world. .
Resilience and vigor
Economic and trade cooperation between the European Union and China has proved remarkably resilient and vibrant despite the negative effects of the pandemic. Thus, China overtook the United States to become the European Union’s largest trading partner in 2021, and bilateral trade reached a record high. Last year, the European Union also became China’s second-largest trading partner, and in the first two months of 2022 even overtook the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take the top spot.
The first direct China-Europe freight train from southwest China’s Guizhou province to Moscow leaves Guiyang in November 2021. (Photo/Xinhua)
In 2021, bilateral trade between China and the European Union was over $800 billion, a new all-time high, and bilateral investment exceeded $270 billion. Bilateral trade has increased significantly in various sectors such as aerospace, biology, photovoltaics, electronics and others. In addition, both sides have improved and expanded their communication channels, including the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue between the European Union and China (HED), as well as regular consultations between local governments and businesses.
Jurgen Friedrich, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of German Trade & Invest, the country’s foreign trade and investment agency, said China has been Germany’s most important trading partner for six consecutive years and that overall bilateral trade has reached a new level. reach a high level in 2021. China is one of the world’s most important emerging markets and an important partner for Germany in its efforts to tackle global challenges such as the pandemic and climate change.
Horst Lehel, professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, for his part called trade between the European Union and China a win-win for both sides, saying he expects the upward trend to continue.
More and more freight trains
In March 2021, the historic agreement between the European Union and China on the protection of over 500 Chinese and European geographical indications (GIs) came into force.
Among the first beneficiaries of the agreement were wines produced on the Greek island of Samos. “China is an extremely important market or potentially important market for Greek wines. I think that as wine becomes more and more popular in China, in just a few years, Greek wines will conquer the market there,” says the first Greek wine master Konstantinos. Lazarakis.
Last year also saw an increase in the number of freight trains, also known as “steel camel caravans”, transporting goods between China and Europe. In 2021, the number of round trip freight trains reached 15,000, carrying 1.46 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), up 22% and 19% from last year, respectively.
This rail link is also very popular with manufacturers and importers in Spain. Gonzalo Jerez, director of Spanish logistics company TransGlory, said it has played a key role as a sustainable and reliable way of logistics during the worst of the pandemic.
In Serbia, the Belgrade-Novi Sad (Beno) section of the China-built Hungary-Serbia railway opened in March. The ceremony was held in Novi Sad in the presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. This landmark railway project is often referred to as a symbol of cooperation between China and the regions of Central and Eastern Europe.
Common strategic interests
China and Europe are major markets with common strategic interests in promoting development through green and digital partnerships. Both sides are also in line with their ambitious commitments to green and digital transformation, carbon reduction and climate change mitigation.
One example is China’s Shanghai Electricity Company, which is leveraging its expertise in wind, solar and hydrogen power on the Maltese island of Gozo, which it aims to turn into Malta’s first carbon-neutral island. The company is also involved in other green energy projects in Malta and Montenegro.
According to Mr. Löhel, it is vital for Europe and China to cooperate in the field of green energy. The European Union unveiled its European Green Deal in 2019 and the bloc aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Meanwhile, China has pledged to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060. This “cooperative model” in green energy is very important for the whole world, he stressed.
Meanwhile, China and Europe are also making continuous efforts to strengthen their partnership in digital trade and finance. Bilateral cooperation in the field of e-commerce is on the rise, and the parties are jointly developing cross-border e-commerce industrial parks. Several Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE are actively involved in the expansion of the European 5G network. Bank of China and China Construction Bank are also set to launch their digital currency electronic payment systems and fintech labs.
Löhel also noted that both Europe and China are committed to addressing the security issues associated with digitalization and have developed rules and policies to protect the privacy of their consumers.