New Silk Road: The 400th China-Europe freight train leaves for Spain

Europe-bound freight trains from China's Yiwu up 211% in H1 2020. Let's see how the pandemic outbreak did not stop China-EU economic dialogue

A freight train loaded with 100 TEUs of cargo departed from Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province for Madrid last Friday.  It was the 400th China-Europe freight train to leave the city this year. As stated by media, the Yiwu-Madrid railway has become an important logistics channel to ensure trade exchanges and transportation of epidemic prevention materials between China and Europe as international shipping has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data, from January 1 to July 31, 33,452 containers were transported via the Yiwu-Madrid railway, one of the key routes on the China-Europe Railway, up 211.1% year-on-year amid the coronavirus pandemic, statistics showed. As stated by the Chinese Ministry of Transport, in the first half of the year, the number of China-Europe freight trains and business volume grew against the trend, with growth rates exceeding 25% and 20% from the previous year.

The port cargo throughput reached 6.75 billion tons, a year-on-year increase of 0.6 percent. The growth in the second quarter was 5.2 percent, maintaining growth for three consecutive months since April, authorities said.

Without doubts, the New Silk Road can foster dialogue and economic cooperation between China and Europe. China and the EU are ranked as the world’s two largest exporters but sit third and fifth on the table for global imports and tomorrow’s Silk Road can add great value to what already is an intense economic intercourse between China and the EU. It is all about a similar determination as motivated the ancient traders. According to data, China (16%) was the largest exporter in the world, followed by the EU-27 (15%) while PRC was the third largest importer in the world.

Concerning China – EU trade, in 2019 Beijing was the third largest partner for EU exports of goods (9% of total extra-EU exports) and largest for EU imports of goods (19% of total extra-EU imports). During the period 2009 to 2019, the EU had a trade in goods deficit (meaning larger imports than exports) with China, which varied between €104 billion and €164 billion. In 2019 the trade deficit stood at €164 billion. For both EU exports and imports of goods with the China, ‘machinery and vehicles’, ‘chemicals’ and ‘other manufactured goods’ dominate. Together these manufactured goods accounted for 87% of EU exports of goods to China and 97% of EU imports of goods from China. Among the Member States, the Netherlands was the largest importer of goods (€88 billion) from China and Germany was the largest exporter of goods (€96 billion) to China in 2019.

The pandemic outbreak did not stop China – EU economic dialogue. Following New Silk Road Initiative, in April, rail freight traffic between Europe and China has resumed by more than 90%. The Chinese government wants to merge business of China and Europe more efficiently and further simplify the transportation and customs formalities. It also want to innovate the operation modes of goods inspection and loading change, and support the expansion of import and export through the use of China-EU trains.

How much China – EU trade is becoming important for both regional economies? And how much does the EU rely on China? The EU and China enjoy one of the world’s biggest and most dynamic trading relationships. Their trade and investment exchanges have become a major engine driving their respective economic development and innovation.