Gao Feng, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, calls on reporters to ask questions at a press briefing in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Wang Cong/GT

In the first two months this year, the European Union (EU) overtook ASEAN countries to become China’s top trading partner, with the bilateral trade volume reaching $137.16 billion, an increase of 14.8 percent year-on-year and $570 million more than the China-ASEAN trade volume during the same period, data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) showed.

Gao Feng, spokesperson for MOFCOM, said at a regular press conference on Thursday that it is difficult to judge whether the shift of ASEAN and the EU in the scale of trade with China is a seasonal performance or a trend, but it reflects the stronger resilience and dynamism of China-EU trade.

The EU had previously been China’s largest trading partner, but since 2019, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN countries saw rapid growth. In 2019, the trade volume of the two sides reached $641.46 billion, surpassing $600 billion for the first time and allowing ASEAN to overtake the US as China’s second-largest trading partner for the first time. 

2020 saw ASEAN make another push to overtake the EU and leap to become China’s largest goods trading partner, with trade volume totaling $684.6 billion. In 2021, ASEAN was China’s top trading partner for the second consecutive year, with bilateral trade in goods reaching a record high of $878.2 billion.

But the trade volume between China and the EU was also growing significantly during the same period. In 2021, China-EU imports and exports trade reached $828.1 billion, up 27.5 percent from the previous year and also a record high, Gao said. 

Gao noted that China and the EU are important trade partners, with strong economic complementarity, extensive areas of cooperation and great development potential. China is willing to work with the EU to actively promote trade and investment liberalization, as well as maintaining a stable and smooth supply chain to benefit enterprises and people on both sides.