China and the European Union are looking forward to a new decade of closer economic ties as the bloc's economy picks up and an investment pact is negotiated, officials say.
"Industrial complementarity between China and the EU is much more significant than the rivalry between them," Shen Danyang, spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce, said at a news conference on Jan 21.
"The prospect of bilateral trade and economic cooperation is very broad … As EU economic growth picks up and the two sides start negotiations on the investment pact, there is reason to believe that this year China-EU trade and economic cooperation will grow quickly and in a better way, opening a new decade for the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership."
Four days earlier, the outgoing EU ambassador to China, Markus Ederer, said EU-China relations had improved over the past three years. While trade remains fundamental in the relationship, the two sides found new areas to work together such as urbanization, water, the Internet, defense and security.
"The EU-China relationship has matured," Ederer said. "Overall, I see very good momentum … and I look forward … to the relationship flourishing."
China and the EU are two of the world's biggest traders. Trade between them has surged in recent years. The EU is China's largest trading partner while China is the EU's second-largest trading partner after the United States.
China is the EU's biggest source of imports and one of its fastest growing export markets. Trade between China and Europe is now worth much more than 1 billion euros ($1.37 billion) a day.
China's exports to the bloc are dominated by industrial and consumer goods, including machinery and equipment, footwear and clothing, furniture and lamps as well as toys. China's imports from the EU are concentrated on machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, aircraft and chemicals.
The value of China-EU trade has exceeded $500 billion for the past three years and reached $559.06 billion last year, up 2.1 percent year-on-year, China's General Administration of Customs says.
In a survey by the Ministry of Commerce, 24.5 percent of 1,900 Chinese trading businesses surveyed said their orders in the EU had risen 0.2 of a percentage point in December compared with November.
"Trade friction is nothing to fear, given the huge trade volume between China and the EU," said Shen of the ministry. "The key is how to properly resolve friction … The only way of resolving disputes is through consultation and dialogue. The proper settlement of the solar panel dispute showed that the two sides have the ability and the nous to control friction and safeguard our joint interest in working together."
China and the EU were on the verge of a trade war last year over solar panels sold in the EU. The EU said China was selling the panels below cost and giving illegal subsidies to domestic manufacturers. China said the dispute put the jobs of 400,000 Chinese working for solar panel makers at risk. After the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang intervened, there was a settlement that set a minimum price and a limit on the volume of EU imports of Chinese solar panels until next year.