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Premier Li to begin tour of Kazakhstan, Serbia, Thailand

Zhang Yunbi
Updated: Dec 13,2014 9:00 AM     China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang is set to embark on a busy trip that will cover three regions, with the goal of reassuring Eurasian countries of Beijing’s commitment to enhanced interconnectivity and diversified trade.

Li’s three-country journey will start in Kazakhstan on Dec 14. He will then visit Serbia and Thailand.

Senior Chinese diplomats confirmed on Dec 12 that connectivity and trade will dominate the to-do list and will involve economies in Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

In Kazakhstan, Li will meet with heads of government, including his counterpart, Karim Masimov.

About 30 cooperative documents are likely to be signed, and Li will give a speech at a business leaders’ meeting.

Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a news conference on Dec 12 that the documents to be signed will cover industries such as energy, transportation and finance.

Cooperation highlights will include projects along trade routes, as well as in resource-related industries. Non-resource business sectors will also be covered, with the goal of expanded investment and cooperation, officials said.

Li will also attend the prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

It is expected that meeting will result in the approval of a range of documents involving pragmatic cooperation and institution-building in the group. Also, documents regarding customs will be signed, Cheng said.

Beijing expects the upcoming SCO meeting to “further boost facilitation of trade and investment”, diversify the system of financing and funding and prompt more engagement of member states in building the Silk Road Economic Belt, said Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen.

SCO provides a “natural opportunity” for the China-led Silk Road project because it is easier to achieve transportation cooperation among the SCO member states, said Li Ziguo, a researcher at China Institute of International Studies.

During his stay in Serbia, Li will attend the leaders’ meeting of China and Central and Eastern European countries, and pay an official visit to the country.

Trade between China and the group reached about $50 billion in the first 10 months of this year, a year-on-year increase of 10.1 percent.

Along with his counterparts, Li will explore the possibility of China working with the 16 regional countries to boost sectors such as connectivity, trade, science and energy, said Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Chao.

On the bilateral agenda, Li and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will witness the successful completion of the Zemun-Borca Bridge over the Danube River, which was constructed by China Road and Bridge Corp.

Following his arrival in Thailand, Li will, for the first time, attend the summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation and meet key officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

China’s trade with member economies in the region surged to $153.4 billion last year.

A regional railway alliance and an assessment report on regional transportation strategy from 2006 to 2015 will also be discussed.

China expects to press ahead with comprehensive connectivity and infrastructure construction in the region, and with accelerated facilities buildup, Wang Chao said.

Xu Liping, Southeast Asia studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Li “is expected to share more details regarding connectivity and free trade initiatives” as a follow-up to his previous proposal at the East Asia Summit, which groups all 10 Southeast Asian nations and some major regional outsiders.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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