World China, not the United States, is now Europe's biggest trading partner for goods
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Europe is now trading more goods with China than the United States, a sign of how the pandemic is transforming the global economy.
Databy the European Union's statistics service attributed the shift to a 5.6% increase in imports from China in 2020 and a 2.2% increase in exports. Meanwhile, there was a "significant drop" in trade with the United States, with imports plunging 13.2% and exports falling 8.2%. The overall value of EU-China goods trade last year was €586 billion ($706 billion), about €31 billion ($37 billion) more than between the European Union and the United States.
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China's economylast year as it from the pandemic, while the United States saw output shrink 3.5%. That allowed China, the world's second largest economy, to .
Daniel Gros, a fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies, said the switch shouldn't come as a surprise given China's command of global industry.
He emphasized, however, that Europe's ties to the United States remain very strong. While headline changes look at total trade in goods, the European Union continues to export much more to the United States that it does to China, generating a significant number of jobs, he noted. The data also doesn't take transatlantic trade in services into account, which is worth about €494 billion ($595 billion) a year.
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"The overall transatlantic relationship remains much, much stronger than the one between Europe and China," Gros said. "It's much deeper because it has [much] more cross-[border] investment [and] transnational companies in a way you do not have with China."
Still, Brussels is looking to deepen its economic relationship with China, despite viewing the country as a "strategic competitor" and "systemic rival."
Europe shares US concerns about Beijing's trade and technology practices. But late last year, it finalized anwith China aimed at boosting market access.
The European Commission said it laid down "clear obligations on Chinese state-owned enterprises," which are often heavily subsidized, and established rules against forced technology transfers.
The deal still generated friction with the United States. Jake Sullivan, who is now President Joe Biden's national security adviser, urged EU leaders to address shared concerns about Beijing with the incoming administration.
Changing trading dynamics could complicate Biden's efforts to reset relationships with allies and build a global coalition to hold China to account.
Gros, however, said the full text of the EU investment agreement ultimately lacked substance. He advised the Biden administration to look beyond the headlines, and see that the content of the deal, which took seven years to negotiate, changed "very little."
"Before that agreement, the EU was already open to China, so what concessions could it offer? None," he said. "So what concessions could you expect China to make?"
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It was the first time an armed Chinese coast guard vessel had been sent into the waters of the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands since Beijing enacted its controversial Coast Guard Law earlier this month.The Chinese government vessels joined two other China Coast Guard ships that had entered and remained in the contiguous zone adjacent to the waters of the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands on Monday, said Japan Times.