China has now overtaken Germany on the list of importers. / E.P.

For first time in history Spain now imports more from China than from EU countries

China has only bought 2% of Spain’s exports this year and the trade deficit with the Asian country now amounts to 26.97 billion euros, which is 12 billion more than at the same time last year

EDURNE MARTÍNEZ MADRID.

The coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have changed world trade and now, for the first time, Spain is importing more goods and services from China than from an EU country.

The latest figures from the coountry's Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which are for August, show that 13.2% imports came from China and the volume had increased by 62% compared with a year previously. Germany was in second place, accounting for 8% of total imports, and an increase of 19% in terms of volume.

These figures are only for the month of August but looking at the first eight months of this year China still heads the list. Chinese imports amounted to 10.8% of the total and were worth 32.1 billion euros, while 9.3% came from Germany.

Why the change? Most imports from China are technology products and these increased by 50% compared with last year. That was not because Spain needed so much, but has been stocking up due to fears of interruptions to the supply chain because of the Chinese government’s zero Covid policy.

The problem in recent months has been that China has been opening and closing its ports and borders depending on the incidence of the virus, which has meant that companies all over the world were concerned about running out of stock. “When China opens up, the volume of imports increases considerably,” Raymond Torres, the director of economic affairs at Funcas, explained.

The situation is not mutual, however. China has only bought 2% of Spain’s exports this year and the trade deficit with the Asian country now amounts to 26.97 billion euros, which is 12 billion more than at the same time last year. As an example of the imbalance, in August Spain only sold goods worth 625 million euros to China, but bought 4.9 billion euros worth. That was almost eight times more.

The fact that China has overtaken EU countries in terms of imports to Spain is also due to a growing weakness in the European powers due to the war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis. Germany, for example, is in a major economic slowdown and is expected to go into recession this year.

Serious consequences

Antonio Bonet, president of the Spanish Exporters Club, has said that China has been positioning itself as Spain’s main non-EU trade partner for years, and has been in second place since 2020 after overtaking France. With the Ukraine war, he said, “China has seen an opportunity to fill the gap left by EU countries”.

However, the consequences could be serious. Bonet said this could lead to a greater dependence on the Asian giant now that global value chains are being reconfigured and the USA and Europe are trying to bring the production of goods closer to their countries. Even so, the positive aspect for Spain is that it can take advantage of lower prices for its imported goods compared with Europe.