EU – China economic relations


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We are publishing this information on trade and investment between China and the European Union (EU) to mark the EU – China summit, taking place in Brussels on 1 and 2 June.

Infographic: EU-China economic relations


EU deficit for goods

China is the second most important EU trading partner after the United States, accounting for 15% of total extra-EU trade in goods in 2016 (compared with 10% in 2006). Over this 10-year time period, the share of China in extra-EU imports increased from 14% in 2006 to 20% in 2016, and its share in exports almost doubled (6% in 2006 vs. 10% in 2016).

Except for the drop recorded in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis, the value of EU imports of goods from China has almost continuously increased over the last decade to reach 345 bn in 2016. Exports, which did not decline in 2009, have almost tripled between 2006 and 2016 to hit 170 bn last year. The EU trade deficit with China, which persisted over the whole period, reached its peak in 2015 (-€180 bn) before decreasing slightly in 2016 (down to -€175 bn).


EU surplus for services

In 2016, China was the third most important EU partner in services, after the United States and Switzerland. It accounted for slightly more than 4% of total extra-EU trade in services.

EU exports of services to China almost doubled between 2010 and 2016, from less than €20 bn to €38 bn, while imports increased more moderately, from slightly more than €17 bn in 2010 to €27 bn in 2016. As a result, the EU surplus in trade in services with China grew by €9 bn over this time period, from €2 bn in 2010 to €11 bn last year.


China became net investor in the EU

Although fluctuating from one year to the next, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) net flows between the EU and China have been continuously positive in recent years. However, in 2015 EU investment in China decreased to €6 bn (compared with €9 bn in 2014 and €21 bn in 2013), while Chinese investment flows into the EU stood at €6.3 bn in 2015. T

his meant that last year, for the first time, China became a net direct investor in the EU. However, the total FDI positions of the EU in China, which reached €168 bn at the end of 2015, remained significantly higher than those of China in the EU (€35 bn).