The relationship between China and the euro zone has been trending in markets lately, and nope, it’s not just because China needs a new friend after locking horns with the U.S. While it’s not exactly posted on Conan O’Brien’s tweets, the euro zone has actually been trading heavily with China over the past few years.
In fact, China is the euro zone’s largest trading partner, and is China’s second closest trading buddy after the U.S. For y’all nitpickers out there, you’ll probably want to know that the euro zone’s exports to China rose by 39% while imports climbed by 30% in the first three quarters of 2010.
Also, word on the street is that around 25-30% of China’s foreign assets (about 1 trillion USD) are euro-denominated. It’s actually heavily exposed to government debts of the EZ’s core economies like Germany. Hmm… It looks like China has a lot at stake with the region!
With the amount of money China has invested into euro zone assets, it only makes sense for them to do everything in their power to make sure that their money is safe.
In an effort to safeguard their euro-denominated investments, Chinese officials have been providing verbal support for the euro zone. They pinky-swore that they’ll continue buying euro zone government bonds despite their debt problems. The euro zone is kinda like that nerdy kid in elementary that no one dared to bully because his big, muscular older brother had his back!
The euro zone’s widening trade deficit is also a cause of concern for China. To help alleviate the growing trade gap, China engages in “procurement” missions. As the name suggests, these missions would go around the euro zone to find possible goods to “procure” and export to China.
The EU sent a delegation to Beijing in high hopes that China could relieve some pressure on the region brought about by downgrades from one credit rating agency after another. However, other than coming up with strategies to strengthen their trade relations, and the announcement of Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan that China would support EU bailouts, there wasn’t much good news that resounded from the dialogue.
In fact, it seems like the pressure for the EU to straighten up its balance sheet has only increased. Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming warned that he has got his eyes on the EU, watching carefully to see if it could carry out concrete plans to push itself out of its debt rut. Yikes!
I think that in the short-run, putting up with a few nagging comments about overspending from the Chinese would be worth it. China’s backing would help keep bond yields from rising to horrid levels and provide some relief on the fiscal health of periphery countries. However, the EU mustn’t depend on one single investor to solve its sovereign crisis. Rather, they should look beyond band-aid solutions by restoring investor confidence and showing everyone that they’re bringing sexy back with their balance sheets.