In a meeting with the civil society, the European Commission outlined the great importance of the trade ties between the EU and China. If two decades ago, hardly any ties existed with the People's Republic of China, in 2008, the EU imported goods from China worth about € 248 billion; exports accounted for € 78 billion.
For some years now, China, whose trading volume ranks immediately behind the USA, has been the second major trading partner of the EU. The export revenue of the European Union is significantly lower than its import figures (the EU exports more to Switzerland than to China!); that is why the trade deficit with China is about € 169 billion. The Commission, however, does not regard this as a problem with the competitiveness of EU-based companies, but with China: there were still, among others, barriers on the side of the Chinese with respect to important sectors such as telecommunication, financial services and the automobile industry, which would prevent EU corporations to export their goods and services to China. Whilst the EU is interested in removing these barriers, China would like to be granted market economy status at WTO level - this would result in further facilities for the export of Chinese products.

Currently, antidumping tariffs are imposed on 49 Chinese products. Such tariffs are applied if it is suspected that a country uses unfair competition methods, such as public subventions, to sell goods at below-market prices. Recently, the trade with steel products came under scrutiny. Another product which attracts complaints from EU competitors concerns shoes.

Currently the EU and China are negotiating a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The EU is very committed to achieving a comprehensive agreement; it had, however, become quite clear that the ambitions of the Chinese were significantly lower. Discussions on core working standards (this includes the prohibition of child and forced labour, the freedom of association, and the right to engage in pay negotiations) were hardly possible. It would generally be very difficult to enter into a dialogue with Chinese representatives; quite often there were long discussions, who would chair the dialogue and what would be on the agenda. It could take a long time until something substantial would be discussed. One could also notice that the Chinese would act in a far more self-assured manner, showing greater and stricter negotiating skills than previously.

Meetings at all political and technical levels, however, would constantly take place between the EU and China. Only in May 2009, 14 EU Commissioners and 12 Chinese Ministers and Vice Ministers had met for a High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue. An EU-China summit, which also took place in May, showed that both parties were committed to making progress concluded the responsible Commissioner.