China Imports To EU Continue Their Rise

The latest EU25 trade data from Eurostat highlight the competitive challenge some European companies face from the fast-growing Chinese economy:

Imports from China in the first four months of this year, at ?45.3bn ($54.5bn, ?31.5bn), were 19 per cent higher than the same period a year before. Imports from the US remained almost flat at ?52.6bn. In contrast, EU exports to China fell by 1 per cent to ?15.2bn, while exports to the US rose by 2 per cent…..

China?s economic expansion suggests the rate of growth of exports to the EU is likely to be maintained. By the end of this year, imports from China could be almost three times higher than the level in 1999. That increases the pressure on domestic producers, as well as eurozone exporters.

Financial Times

EU25 trade was characterised by an increase in the EU25 surplus with the USA (+24.2 bn euro in January-April 2005 compared with +23.0 bn in Januar y-April 2004 ) and Switzerland (+ 6.0 bn compared with +3.8 bn). The EU25 trade deficit grew with China (-30.1 bn compared with -22.8 bn), Russia (-16.3 bn compared with -11.5 bn) and Norway (-10.0 bn compared with -8.0 bn), and fell with Japan (-9.9 bn compared with -11.5 bn).

Concerning the total trade of Member States, the largest surplus was observed in Germany (+ 55.0 bn euro in January-April 2005 ), followed by the Netherlands (+ 11.8 bn), Ireland (+ 10.8 bn) and Sweden (+ 5.8 bn) . The
United Kingdom (-30.7 bn) registered the largest deficit, followed by Spain (-22.6 bn) , Greece (-10.4 bn) and France (-9.9 bn).

Source: Eurostat

China Trade With EU

I’m not very happy with the ‘US Trade Figures‘ post I put up last Friday. I think it’s a glorious mess. The key to the problem is that I tried to deal with two – interrelated but disinct – topics at once: the euro and China trade. So today lets ignore the euro (which has once more resumed the downwards drift, even as I write) and take a bit of a closer look at where we are – in trade terms – with China. (Btw: the planet has finally returned to its orbit, and Brad Setser has an analysis of the US trade data here).

The big item in this weekend’s news is, of course, the agreement reached with Beijing on textiles. The EU textile industry will now have three years to adapt, but since textile manufacturers don’t appear to have taken too much advantage of the ten previous years, it is hard to know whether this will serve any useful purpose. Doubly so, since it is not yet clear how the calculations will be made, and I have the distinct impression that much of the recent surge in imports will now, in effect, be consolidated.

Be that as it may, what about the broader issue?
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Surplus Bicycles

I don’t suppose that there is any connection with the recent Chinese appetite for purchasing cars, but apparently China and Vietnam are about to be accused of dumping their unwanted bicycles on Europe:

The European Union is expected to levy next month swingeing anti-dumping tariffs on bicycle imports from China and Vietnam in an attempt to put the brake on cheap imports. European manufacturers claim imports from Vietnam have risen from 150,000 five years ago to 1.5m in 2004, while China exported up to 2m bicycles to the the EU last year, despite a tariff of 30.6 per cent already in place.

T-shirts, pants, slippers, sandles and push-bikes, are these really strategically important industries for the EU?

Now It’s Footwear

The EU’s trade dispute with China risks spreading from textiles to footwear after the EU released data Wednesday which purported to show that Chinese shoe imports had surged since the end of quotas at the start of the year.

Responding to concerns of European shoemakers, the European Commission said imports of leather shoes and textile slippers had soared nearly eight-fold in the first four months of 2005, pushing down prices on European markets by 28 percent. Shoemakers from Italy have sent more than 200 letters of complaint to the Commission in the past two weeks, according to Leonardo Soana, director general of Italy’s National Footwear Association.

They charge that China, and to a lesser extent Vietnam, are dumping leather shoes on the European market and putting shoemakers out of work.

Soana told Dow Jones Newswires that Italy’s shoe industry will present a formal complaint on June 15, alongside claims by Spain and Portugal. French, Greek and Polish industry groups will back calls the for tariffs on Chinese shoes, he said.

Looking at the list, it is pretty clear which parts of the EU are being most hit by these ‘bottom end’ imports from China, and why: they are generally the economies which are most challenged by the need to move up the value chain. That being said, and correcting slightly an earlier renminbi post, it is obviously the case that the rise of the euro against the dollar, has also been a rise against the renminbi, 40% or so in 3 years, so it is clear why there is a ‘pain barrier’ now in Europe.

However on the free trade angle, Stumbling and Mumbling has a nice quote from Scottish Economist and Philosopher David Hume which is very much to the point:

There are few Englishmen who would not think their country absolutely ruined, were French wines sold in England so cheap and in such abundance as to supplant, in some measure, all ale, and home-brewed liquors: But would we lay aside prejudice, it would not be difficult to prove, that nothing could be more innocent, perhaps advantageous. Each new acre of vineyard planted in France, in order to supply England with wine, would make it requisite for the French to take the produce of an English acre, sown in wheat or barley, in order to subsist themselves; and it is evident, that we should thereby get command of the better commodity.

China and Protectionism

The Chinese minister of trade Bo Xilai was in Paris yesterday. Most likely this is simply a happy coincidence, but the timing couldn’t have been better. The issue of Chinese textile imports has become one of the issues in the French referendum, and minister Bo was conveniently available to make all the right gestures:

“We want to soften the shockwave that there could be from the rise in Chinese textile exports,” Bo told a news conference after talks with French trade minister Francois Loos…”It is a temporary phenomenon and this phenomenon will weaken or disappear”.
Source: Reuters

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Public Demand and Social Prorities?

Now here’s an interesting one. (And please note that in keeping with recent Fistful tradition – as identified by Ms T – I am putting a question mark before the title). Pascal Lamy is reportedly considering a discussion paper which proposes allowing countries to impose import bans on products from other countries that do not share their national values and standards.
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