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How Chinese companies play a vital role in bolstering China-Europe economic ties

Xinhua| Updated: May 14, 2021
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-- China surpassed the United States to become the EU's top trading partner last year, as the bloc's imports from China throughout 2020 grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year to 383.5 billion euros (about $465 billion) and exports grew by 2.2 percent to 202.5 billion euros.

-- The phenomenal momentum of bilateral trade remains robust into 2021. During the first two months of the year, EU exports and imports to China registered yearly growth of 13.6 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively, Eurostat figures showed.

-- China and the EU can not only strengthen economic and trade cooperation, and stimulate the recovery of the world economy, but also have great potential in developing low-carbon economy and digital technology, especially after the approval of the investment agreement.

VALLETTA -- Though global growth has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Europe have been working together feverishly to bring economic growth back on track.

On that front, Chinese companies in Europe have been playing a vital role in boosting bilateral cooperation through fulfilling their commitments to promoting local development.

Looking to the future, these companies remain confident in the enormous potential that exists based on stronger China-Europe relations.

Top trading partner

China surpassed the United States to become the Europe Union's (EU) top trading partner last year, as the bloc's imports from China throughout 2020 grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year to 383.5 billion euros (about $465 billion) and exports grew by 2.2 percent to 202.5 billion euros, according to the EU's statistical service Eurostat.

The phenomenal momentum of bilateral trade remains robust into 2021. During the first two months of the year, EU exports and imports to China registered yearly growth of 13.6 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively, Eurostat figures showed.

Economic and trade cooperation is an important part of the China-EU partnership, Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, said at the annual conference of the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU in early April.

It is of great significance for China and the EU to maintain solid economic and trade ties, he said.

In December last year, China and the EU concluded seven years of negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. The two sides also signed an agreement on geographical indications in September 2020, which came into force on March 1.

"We hope that the China-EU investment agreement will be approved and implemented at an early date," Xu Haifeng, the commerce chamber's chairman, told Xinhua.

"The accord is of historic significance that would pave the way for a clearer and more stable legal framework for Chinese and European companies to invest in each other's markets," Xu said.

With China becoming the biggest direct foreign investor in Hungary in 2020, Mihaly Patai, deputy governor of Hungary's central bank Magyar Nemzeti Bank, expressed his belief that "the economic cooperation between Hungary and China is strong, and is getting stronger each year."

"We will do our best to continue," Patai told Xinhua.

Commitments fulfilled

Song Mingjun, managing director of COSCO SHIPPING Lines Finland, is pleased with business these days and the growth of his company, now the largest carrier of Finland's three world-leading firms in the forest industry catering to the Far East.

Finland's exports by COSCO SHIPPING have grown in recent years. In 2020, exports shipped by COSCO SHIPPING reached 85,206 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, an increase of more than 7 percent year-on-year, Song told Xinhua.

With the goal of promoting green and low-carbon energy cooperation between China and Europe, Shanghai Electric Power Company has focused on building green energy projects, such as the Mozura Wind Park in Montenegro and the three-phase Delimara power plant in Malta.

The company is now planning to build new energy projects in Malta to help the country realize the carbon neutrality target by 2050 set by the EU.

After more than 20 years of development, BYD Europe has grown into a compelling leader in new energy vehicles. More than 1,800 pure electric buses have been distributed or are on order in more than 20 European countries, the equivalent of more than 65 million pure-electric km and a reduction of more than 70,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, Isbrand Ho, managing director of BYD Europe, told Xinhua.

In Serbia's capital Belgrade, the Zemun-Borca bridge is known as the "Chinese bridge." Constructed by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the 1.48-km-long bridge, together with 21.2 km of access roads, represents the first big Chinese investment in European infrastructure.

Chinese companies have also contributed to Europe's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of the year as some global shipping companies withdrew their feeder service through Finland due to an insufficient supply of empty containers, COSCO SHIPPING ensured normal operations to guarantee the security of Finland's supply chain.

"We win customers' trust with stable services during a special period to fulfill service commitments," said Song.

Amid the pandemic, Fabryka Lozysk Tocznych-Krasnik S.A., a bearings manufacturer in southeast Poland acquired by the Chinese Tri-Ring Group, managed to keep all its 1,650 employees on the payroll.

At the end of January, MGI Latvia, the subsidiary of China's MGI, launched the production of automated and integrated container laboratories, aiming to improve local COVID-19 testing capacity and help Latvia and other European countries.

"The much-needed economic recovery in Europe and elsewhere could be rekindled by boosted investment and trade relations," said Xu. "Chinese enterprises are ready to contribute to more solid investment, business, and economic ties between China and Europe."

Prosperous cooperation

Chinese companies in Europe believe that China and the EU, as two major global economies, have enormous cooperation potential in the post-pandemic era.

The two sides can not only strengthen economic and trade cooperation, and stimulate the recovery of the world economy, but also have great potential in developing low-carbon economy and digital technology, especially after the approval of the investment agreement.

"Presently, cooperation and partnership are more crucial than ever. BYD hopes more cooperation opportunities will come and the win-win partnership could promote the development between industries," said Ho, adding this year BYD will bring new e-trucks to the European market.

Cooperation outweighs confrontation, and the landmark agreement on geographical indications between China and the EU shows that cooperation would eventually bring benefits to trade, producers and consumers of both sides, Xu said.

In Hungary, Chinese tech giant Lenovo Group is building a manufacturing facility, which would create 1,000 jobs and introduce advanced technology.

As sales of new energy vehicles continue to grow in Europe, Chinese electric carmaker NIO has announced its entry into the European market for the second half of 2021.

"Once NIO begins its car sales in Europe, it will expand its investment in Europe and need more partners to form after-sales service," Zhang Hui, vice-president of NIO Europe, told Xinhua.

"It is foreseeable that there is big room for more cooperation with local partners," he added.

In Serbia, the CRBC will begin to build communal infrastructure for the disposal of municipal wastewater and solid waste, which is expected to help permanently solve a decades-old problems in the country and protect the local environment.