China experienced explosive trade growth after joining the WTO in 2001. China’s share of global exports of services more than doubled the last decades (from 3% in 2005 to 6.6% in 2021). According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) of Harvard University, in 2019 China exported 218 billion dollars worth of services. The top services exported by China in 2019 were “other business services” i.e. research and development services, professional and management consulting and technical services ($69.2 billion), transportation ($46.2 billion), travel ($35.8 billion), and computer and information services ($34.9 billion);
More than one-sixth of the value of all Chinese exports of services ends up in the EU. In the last decade, Chinese services imported into the EU more than doubled in value, from €15.6 billion in 2010 to €36.5 billion in 2021, despite the slight slowdown in 2020 due to impact of the COVID-19.
In general, China-EU bilateral services trade remains at a relatively low level. Characteristically, in terms of imports of services, China is not among the top three trading partners for any of the 27 EU member states. Recent data available report that in 2020 United States was, by far, the principal origin of extra-EU imports of services, accounting for approximately three tenths (29.8 %; €261 billion) of the EU’s imports of services. The next highest shares were recorded for the United Kingdom (18.4 %) and offshore financial centers (12.9 %) (such as Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bermuda, Panama).
In 2019, services imported from China accounted for 0.24% of EU GDP (up from 0.14% in 2010). Over the past decade, imports of services from China have increased both in value and as a percentage of GDP almost in all EU member states. (In Malta and Estonia imports of services from China fell slightly as a share of GDP, although they increased in value.)
In some Member States the increase has been spectacular: in Ireland services imported from China as a percentage of GDP has increased tenfold in seven years (2012-2019), in Lithuania it has increased fivefold from 2010 to 2019. In Greece, the share of Chinese imports of services to GDP increased from 0.13% of GDP in 2010 to 0.19% in 2019.
Germany (€8.8 billion), France (€4.6 billion), and Ireland (€4.1 billion) were the largest importers of services from China in 2019. (In 2020, the value of services imported from China decreased almost in all member states except Ireland where it continued to rise rapidly, to €5 billion.)
In terms of imports of services as a percentage of GDP in 2019 Ireland (1.14%), Denmark (0.64%), and Luxembourg (0.56% of GDP) report the three highest shares. Greece was in the middle of the ranking (14th place out of 27 countries, with 0.19% of GDP).
In the balance of bilateral trade in services with China, the EU maintains a significant surplus (almost 21 billion euros in 2021). The same applies to 19 of the 27 member states. Greece’s surplus (1 billion 83 million euros in 2019, and 934 million euros in 2020) was the fourth highest in the EU, after Germany, France, and Ireland.