Last reviewed 13 July 2016

The EU has given details of how it sees the EU-China relationship developing over the next five years. Eric Davies reports.

In a Joint Communication, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the European Commission have set out a strategy to promote EU interests and underline the Union’s values in its relationship with China.

Commenting on the communication, Mrs Mogherini said that citizens, industries, and organisations in both the EU and China can benefit from a closer, improved, and better-defined relationship based on shared responsibility.


Among the proposals set out in the Communication Elements for a New EU Strategy on China are that the EU should seize new openings to strengthen its relations with China and should engage with China’s reform process in practical ways resulting in mutual benefits in economic, trade and investment, environmental and other areas.

The EU should promote reciprocity, a level playing field and fair competition across all areas of co-operation, and should also push for the timely completion of negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment and an ambitious approach to opening up new market opportunities.

Elements for a New EU Strategy on China also proposes that the EU should use the EU-China Connectivity Platform (launched in June 2015) as its main vehicle for working with China to connect the Eurasian continent through a physical and digital network. The network would enable the flow of trade, investment and people-to-people contacts. Dialogue on mobility and migration should be strengthened and the use of existing channels for legal migration in the EU and China should be encouraged, states the report.

The Communication also proposes that the EU should promote global public goods, sustainable development and international security in line with UN and G20 responsibilities, and should promote respect for the rule of law and human rights within China and internationally.

EU-China trade

The EU and China are two of the world’s biggest traders. China is now the EU’s second biggest trading partner after the USA, while the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. Trade between the EU and China is worth over €1 billion per day.

EU imports from China are dominated by industrial and consumer goods, including machinery and equipment, footwear and clothing, furniture and lamps, and toys. EU exports to China — which grew by 11% in 2014 — are primarily machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, aircraft and chemicals.

In 2014, Germany accounted for 46% of EU exports of goods to China, worth €75 billion. The UK registered 12% (€19.6 billion) and France 10% (€16.2 billion).

Germany was also the largest EU importer from China in 2014 (20% of goods worth €60.9 billion). The Netherlands accounted for 19% (€57.3 billion) and the UK for 15% (€45.8 billion). Overall EU imports of goods from China rose by 8% in 2014.

Just two Member States recorded a surplus in trade in goods with China in 2014: Germany (+€14.1 billion) and Finland (+€0.7 billion). All 26 other EU countries had deficits, with the largest being recorded by the Netherlands (–€48.8 billion) and the UK (–€26.2 billion).

Further information

The Joint Communication Elements for a New EU Strategy on China will be presented to the Council and to the European Parliament for comment. The text can be downloaded here.

More information on EU-China trade can be found on the EC Trade website which also has details of the Trade for All Strategy.

The website of the European External Action Service (EEAS) offers a wider perspective on EU-China relations.