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European visits focus on boosting trade

By Fu Jing (China Daily)

09:54, May 02, 2012

Top-ranking Chinese leaders' busily scheduled visits to Central and Eastern European countries are sending Beijing's strong message to beef up economic and trade ties and foster dialogue with the region, said European politicians and observers.

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Budapest on Monday shortly after visiting Russia.

Li's trip came just after Premier Wen Jiabao's European trip. In Poland, Wen pledged that China and Central and Eastern European countries should make efforts to double the volume of trade by 2015.

Meanwhile, Wen's tour in Poland took place just less than one year after his visit in Hungary in June last year, when he highlighted China's commitment of cooperation with leaders in the region.

"The visits have indicated that China is interested in the markets in Central and Eastern Europe and would like to explore new investment opportunities," said Iliana Ivanova, vice-chairwoman of European Union's Delegation for Relations with China in an interview.

Beijing has been in its efforts to expand imports from European countries and accelerate the pace of its investments in Europe. Meanwhile, it has repeatedly shown its preference for cooperating in "real economy", instead of investing much in the European bailout fund.

"China and European countries should feel the positive effects of closer economic and trading relations and should establish even closer links," said Ivanova, who is from Bulgaria.

"Looking at the two-way trade between China and Central and Eastern European countries, we can see that it is growing rapidly."

Beijing has undertaken partnerships in high technologies and innovative cooperation with advanced Western and Northern European countries. For the less-developed countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Chinese investors can still set up more companies or invest in infrastructure projects.

To support its investment activities, Bank of China has set up branches and expanded its services in those regions. China Development Bank has offered China's businesses significant credit backing to expand in those regions.

"Eastern Europe has a lot to offer and I think both sides can benefit from this cooperation," Ivanova said.

Given the current economic environment and that the global crisis has not yet been subdued, neither side should resort to protectionism. "This is not a reasonable policy and protectionist measures might put in danger our trade and economic relations. Fair trade practices are needed from both sides in order to strengthen our relations and to boost economic growth," Ivanova said.

Chinese companies can invest in Europe's infrastructure market, especially in the Central and Eastern Europe. For example, Poland is intending to complete its national highway network and also plans to build high-speed railway, in which China is quite experienced.

Premier Wen was proposing to set up an expert committee on the construction of traffic networks to discuss joint venture possibilities in the region's highway and railway projects.


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