As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, when it comes to the European Union’s foreign trade relations, last year was marked by the emergence of China as the very first partner, a place from which it pushed the United States, the bloc’s traditional main partner in the exchange of goods.
According to Eurostat, goods worth 383 billion euros were imported into the European Union from China last year, and 203 billion were exported, while 203 billion euros worth of goods were imported from the United States and 353 billion were exported.
The US is still the main export market for EU products, and China is in third place, after the United Kingdom. However, last year, compared to pre-pandemic 2019, trade with the United States fell significantly, both in exports and imports, meaning China, with an increase in the total, took over the traditional first position previously held by the United States.
These ups and downs of course include Brexit, which also left a visible mark on import-export statistics and will more than likely continue to do so.
The turnaround among the EU’s top trading partners was boosted by increased demand in the second half of the year, largely as a result of China’s strong economic recovery from the pandemic, while European product sales plummeted in US and UK markets.
The need for masks erupted as the coronavirus pandemic spread globally
Imports from China were further contributed to by the fact that the need for medical and PPE arose across the EU due to the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In the review of data by country, China is rather unsurprisingly one of the top 5 EU markets (in exports) for only two member states – Germany and Ireland, while it is among the five main markets from which they import goods from as many as thirteen countries.
The largest contributors to high Chinese imports and growth last year was the Netherlands, which imported 91 billion euros worth of goods and China tops its list of markets for goods, Germany came next with 82 billion euros in imports and China its second largest import market after the nearby Netherlands.
Among the EU member states for which China is one of the main supply markets are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden.
For the largest number of EU member states, sixteen of them, Germany is the main trading partner, and among them is Croatia, in which case Germany took over this position last year from Italy which was the nation’s long-term main partner. On the other hand, for seventeen other EU member states, Germany remains the main export market.
Exceptions include, for example, Lithuania, for which Russia is the main export market and Poland the main import market, and Estonia, for which Finland is the main partner, and Cyprus, which has the highest trade with Greece, and Portugal, whose main partner is Spain.
For the Spanish, the biggest buyer when it comes to products is neighbouring France, and Ireland is the main partner from which the United Kingdom procures goods, with the United States filling the same role but for exports. However, an important buyer for Ireland, mainly of high-tech products, is China, where the Irish economy accounted for 6 percent of total exports last year, equal to a massive 10 billion euros.
For both of Croatia’s two main trading partners, Germany and Italy, China is the second most important import market, while for Germany the number one import market is the Netherlands (142 billion euros), and the main export market is still the United States (104 billion euros).
For German products, China became the second export destination last year, and France slipped down into third position. In the case of Italy, Germany is the main destination for both exports and imports.
Slovenia is the third trading partner for Croatia, while neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary hold the fourth and fifth positions on the list of export markets, and Hungary is also the fourth on the list of import markets, with Austria holding the fifth position.
The Republic of Croatia, on the other hand, is on the list of the top 5 EU markets/member states only for neighbouring Slovenia, and that’s solely for the export of their products. Slovenia’s main partner is otherwise Germany, while Switzerland is in second place for both imports and exports, and Croatia is its fourth export market after Italy.
The first Eurostat trade data for 2021 indicates that China could strengthen its leading position as a trading partner for the EU, which is unlikely to come as a shock to most.
At the annual level back in January, there was a 6.6 percent increase in European exports to China, with a decline of 3.8 percent, but exports to the US fell by 10 percent, and imports from the US is as much as one whole quarter lower, while the real failure can be seen in trade with the United Kingdom, to which exports fell by 27 percent back in January and imports halved.
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