Measures taken by the European Union (EU)members to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic were in full force during April. Early 2020 data show significant impact of the initial restrictions imposed by China in mid-January on the international trade in goods, according to the EU, which is organising the EU-China summit in Brussels beginning June 22.

The EU’s seasonally adjusted trade (imports plus exports) with China fell from €46.5 billion in January this year to €43.1 billion in February 2020. In March, the EU’s trade with China fell further to €41.9 billion, while in April 2020 it bounced back above its January 2020 level to €49.0 billion.

This increase was mainly led by a sharp increase in imports from China and was largely due to an increase in imports of specific made-up textile articles like textile face masks, surgical masks disposable face masks and single use drapes, the EU said in a press release.

Trends in EU’s trade with its five main trade partners vary. In April 2020, decreasing levels of trade were observed for imports from all five main trade partners of the EU, with the exception of China (a rise of 12 per cent compared with January 2020).

The EU’s exports to its five main trade partners also fell over this period, with the highest decrease in exports recorded with the United Kingdom (40 per cent), while the smallest decrease was recorded with China (6 per cent).

Looking at imports of the most traded goods to the EU from China, the second highest increase (36 per cent, €129 billion) in April 2020 compared with the same month last year was recorded for articles of apparel of textile fabrics. The largest decrease in absolute terms (€254 billion, 52 per cent) was observed for import of footwear.