China is, by population, the largest country in the world with 1.4 billion inhabitants in 2013. It has emerged over the past years as a leading player in world affairs, reflecting its extraordinary growth and rapid economic development. China has become an increasingly important partner for the European Union - and vice versa - both economically and politically. The EU is China’s largest trading partner, while China is the second largest trading partner for the EU. As global players and strategic partners, the China and the EU cooperate on key international and regional issues.
The EU and China have both put forward strategic development plans - China's two centenary goals and the 12th Five Year Plan, the EU 2020 Strategy - which present potential for synergies to enhance cooperation for win-win results. The two sides are committed to promoting the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the next decade.
The 17th bilateral summit between the European Union and China took place on Monday 29 June 2015 in Brussels, celebrating the 40th anniversary of EU-China diplomatic relations. The summit acknowledged this achievement and stressed the importance of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in promoting peace, prosperity and sustainable development for the benefit of all.
Chinese air traffic market is among the fastest growing in the world with an average growth rate that reaches around 10%. Recent developments reflect a booming local economy and increased propensity to travel as domestic consumption expands and government-led investments in the aviation industry increases. In the period 2015-2034, the Chinese domestic market is expected to grow by 7% annually and the international one by 8%. As such, China offers a strong potential for growth also for airlines, aircraft manufacturers and service providers in Europe.
The signature of a Letter of Intent (LoI) on cooperation in the field of civil aviation between the CAAC and European Commission (DG MOVE) on 23 August 2013 in Brussels constituted a milestone in aviation relations between these two strategic partners. The LoI provides a broad platform for cooperation in the field of civil aviation in the future, foresees the finalisation of consultations on a EU-China "horizontal agreement" that will restore legal certainty to all bilateral air services agreements are ongoing. In addition, the two sides have agreed in the LoI to explore the prospect of a comprehensive EU-China air transport agreement.
In September 2015, the European Commission launched a new EU-China Aviation Partnership Project (APP) to support the implementation of the LoI. This project, which is within the Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) framework, aims to strengthen the economic partnership between the EU and China in the civil aviation domain. APP has a total budget of 10 million EUR for the period 2015-2019 and covers a broad range of technical aviation areas. It will be managed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) with close involvement of government and industry stakeholders.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Hong Kong has been agreeing bilaterally with EU Member States the EU designation clause, whereby all EU airlines established in the territory of the EU Member State in question are eligible for available traffic rights.
Macao Special Administrative Region
The European Union and the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region signed a horizontal aviation agreement on 23 November 2013. This agreement does not replace the bilateral agreements in place between Macao and EU Member States but brings all these 15 agreements in line with EU law. The horizontal agreement removes nationality restrictions in the bilateral agreements and will thereby allow any EU airline to operate flights between Macao and any EU Member State where it is established if traffic rights under the relevant bilateral agreement are available.