China-CEE summit sets work plan

China-CEE summit sets work plan

The Fourth Summit of China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries was held in Suzhou on Nov 24-25. Premier Li Keqiang and leaders from 16 CEE countries formulated a 5-year blueprint for cooperation in areas such as connectivity, trade and investment, finance, agriculture and people-to-people exchanges. Two political documents was issued at the meeting, namely, the Medium-term Plan for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries and the Suzhou Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries.

It is the first such summit held in China, and it established a milestone for future cooperation.

A New Start

In 2014, trade volume between China and CEE countries passed $60 billion and substantial progress was achieved in a number of infrastructure and energy projects.

Over the past three years, the 16+1 cooperation, just like a high-speed train, has set out on its journey and is hurtling all the way from Warsaw to Bucharest and from Belgrade to Suzhou, the Premier said during a keynote speech at the summit. The train is where it is today because every carriage has served to provide a driving force to ensure that cooperation is steady and produces lasting results, he added.

Kong Tianping, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said China and the CEE countries see great potential for economic and trade cooperation under the lead of the 16+1 mechanism, especially given the background of China’s promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative.

New Areas

During the summit the Premier proposed implementing the roadmap for advancing cooperation, promoting synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the development strategies of the CEE countries. He also highlighted the importance of setting new examples for cooperation on production capacity, to keep looking for new investment and financing cooperation, and promoting the growth of both trade and investment.

Bilateral trade between China and the 16 CEE countries reached over $60 billion last year amid sluggish global economic growth, indicating tremendous trade and investment potential, Premier Li made the remarks while addressing the opening ceremony of the fifth economic and trade forum between China and CEE countries.

The two parties enjoy broad cooperation prospects and could speed up and deepen partnership in many fields, the Premier pointed out.

Premier Li called for the acceleration of connectivity projects to link regional transportation and Internet infrastructure development with the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

China is willing to invest in the construction and upgrade of infrastructure in port areas of the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea to boost cooperation and connectivity.

Meanwhile, China will support CEE countries in their industrial upgrading with its advanced capacity in automobiles, steel, shipbuilding, port equipment and engineering machinery, the Premier said.

Trade in the agricultural sector will be another key cooperation field and China will support the imports of quality produce from CEE countries through means such as expositions, according to the Premier.

To facilitate bilateral investment, China is mulling setting up a $3-billion investment fund and has proposed to establish a “16+1” multilateral financial firm to expand financing channels and reduce financing cost.

Premier Li called for more support and involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in bilateral investment and trade to draw their wisdom and proposed setting up an innovation platform to serve bilateral cooperation of SMEs.
The meeting, with the theme of "New Beginning, New Fields, New Vision," is the most important meeting under the framework of China-CEE cooperation.

Leaders from China and CEE countries have met three times since 2012 in Poland's capital city of Warsaw, Romania's capital city of Bucharest and Serbia's capital city of Belgrade respectively, with a wide range of agreements reached in energy, infrastructure, trade and tourism, and scientific and technical cooperation.

The economies of CEE countries, complementary to China's economy, have witnessed an increasing number of their products being exported to China.

Meanwhile, China, the world's second-largest economy, has rich experience in infrastructure construction and has seen increasing Chinese companies invest in CEE countries, which thus provide impetus for economic growth in the region.

There is tremendous potential for China and CEE countries to work with each other, as Li has put it during the third leaders' meeting in Belgrade.

The deepening cooperation between China and CEE countries, a natural outcome of the increasing needs of both sides, serves each others' interests and opens new prospects for China-Europe ties.

As a matter of fact, the trade volume between China and CEE countries increased to US$60.2 billion in 2014 from US$43.9 billion in 2010, while Chinese companies have invested more than US$5 billion in CEE countries and the 16 CEE countries have invested more than US$1.2 billion in China.

A flagship cooperation agreement has been signed on building a railway running through Belgrade and Budapest to connect China, Hungary and Serbia. Moreover, direct flights between China and CEE countries as well as the opening of more air routes have been established.

Furthermore, the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which allows a further opening-up of China's economy, has invited CEE countries to jointly exploit their development potential by accelerating infrastructure construction and strengthening exports to the Chinese market.

A united, stable and prosperous Europe is in the interests of the world and China, as Li has said in an article published by the Daily Telegraph in November 2013.

The integration of China-CEE cooperation, in line with the development strategies of respective countries, will promote the overall development of China-Europe ties.