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Countries and regions Brussels, 23 April 2010

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht travels to Beijing and Tokyo

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EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will make a key visit to China and Japan on 27-30 April. In recognition of the size and importance of these two economies, the Commissioner will explore with his counterparts how to fulfil potential export opportunities in these markets.

"I see enormous possibilities for European businesses in China and Japan", said Commissioner De Gucht. "But sometimes regulations and restrictions can hamper market conditions to the detriment of businesses and consumers. I want to work with both countries to remove these barriers and build a more fruitful and long-term partnership for prosperity."

The Commissioner will meet high-level political representatives in China on 27th April, notably Minister for Commerce Chen Deming. The major topics relevant to bilateral trade will be on the agenda.

During his visit to Japan on 28th April, the Commissioner will meet with the Minister Economy, Industry & Trade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture. He will also meet representatives of European and Japanese business. The Commissioner will address the ongoing process aiming at reducing obstacles to trade with Japan and will discuss how to take the bilateral trade relationship forward.

In the second leg of his visit to China on 29-30th April, the Commissioner will have additional meetings with representatives from European industry, and participate in an Executive-to-Executive meeting between the President of the Commission José Manuel Barroso and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao along with six other European Commissioners. The main focus will be to develop a forward looking agenda for bilateral relations, under the new framework provided by the Lisbon Treaty.

Background

China
Bilateral trade in goods was €296 billion (2009) and €35 billion in services (2008).
Early 2010, the Chinese economy is in a strong position. China is the first major economy to rebound effectively from the crisis. It has overtaken Germany as the world’s largest exporter, and is set to overtake Japan as the world’s second largest national economy in 2010.

China is Europe's fastest growing export market. Europe exported €81.6 billion worth of goods to China in 2009 - up by 4% on 2008. Exports from the EU to China grew by approximately 60% between 2005 and 2009.

China's trade surplus with Europe is decreasing (€128 billion in 2009 down from €166 billion in 2008). China's large consumer market holds a vast potential for European exporters in the future.

Barriers to trade in China are estimated to cost EU businesses €21 billion in lost trade opportunities every year, according to a study in 2007 financed by the European Commission. That is one-fourth of current EU exports to China.


Japan
Bilateral trade in goods was €91.6 billion (2009) and €33.6 billion in services (2008).
Japan's share of EU trade is just above 4% (2008), which is a decrease in relative terms over the last five years. This is due in part to the emergence of new trade partners like China and Russia. Japan is today the 6th trade partner of the EU, while the EU is Japan's 3rd. Foreign direct investment also remains limited in Japan (at 2% of GDP).

The EU had in 2009 a trade deficit with Japan of €19.5 billion. This may be explained by the number of non-tariff obstacles to trade (like standards, limited access to the procurement market) that have traditionally existed in Japan. A recent study (carried out by Copenhagen Economics) estimates at €29 billion the potential gain for EU exporters from the elimination of these barriers. At the last EU-Japan Summit, it was decided to work on number of these obstacles with a view to achieve some concrete results. The progress so far achieved on these issues will be discussed in the bilateral meeting preceding the Summit.

For further information

Speech by Karel De Gucht following his trip to China (European Economic and Social Committee, May 6 2010)

On the EU's trade relations with China
On the EU's trade relations with Japan

Photo gallery : Bejing