Europe has unleashed a full-scale charm offensive on China. Italy, France and Portugal have already had their shot at oriental seduction.
Now, before the G20 leaders try to redress the commercial balance and avoid a trade war, it is Britain’s turn to go a-courting to win its share of the manna from China.
China is already the second economic power in the world, growing at a dizzying 10 per cent per year.
And for the last six years, it has been the EU’s second biggest trading partner, and the second biggest customer for european goods.
Britain’s Chancellor fo the Exchequer George Osborne said: “If you want to deal with some of the big challenges facing the economy of the world and indeed some of the great challenges that advanced Western economies face in terms of creating growth and creating jobs, well China is part of the answer not part of the problem.”
In close to 10 years, exchanges between the two giants have tripled. EU exports to China have ballooned from 26-billion euros at the millenium, to 82-billion last year.
Imports have also exploded, and with them, the deficit — nearly 170-billion euros in 2008.
In recent years the imbalance has become increasingly visible, even though China has imported more from the 27 since the start of the financial crisis.
But the fact remains: Chinese products are finding more openings in the EU than the other way around.
Germany is leading the EU’s trading push, accounting for almost half of the union’s exports eastwards, and holding the crown for imports too.
France, Italy and the UK are way behind in terms of exports.
The Netherlands is the second biggest importer of Chinese goods, and so has the biggest trade deficit.
The EU and the US say Beijing has deliberately kept the Chinese currency undervalued – so making their goods relatively cheaper in foreign markets.
But there are rich pickings in China too. It is the world’s biggest market for cars, and sales are predicted to rocket by 20 per cent in the coming year.