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Why does Premier Li’s six-day European visit matter?

Updated: Jul 4,2018 5:01 PM     CGTN

Premier Li Keqiang will pay an official visit to Bulgaria and Germany from July 5 to 10. Premier Li will attend the seventh leaders’ meeting of China and the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) in Sofia, and, in Germany, he will co-chair the fifth round of intergovernmental consultations between China and Germany.

“The visit will be a major diplomatic action to Europe after the formation of the new Chinese government in March,” said Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Chao at a press briefing on June 29.

Sino-Bulgarian ties

Bulgaria is the first stop of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit. Bulgaria, located at the intersection of the Eurasian continent, is a member of the European Union (EU) and an important country in the Middle East and Europe.

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bulgaria.

During the visit, the two sides will exchange views on bilateral cooperation in various fields and regional and international issues of common concern, while several cooperative documents between the two governments and business sectors will also be signed during the visit.

The seventh Summit of Heads of Government of China and CEEC

Upon completing his trip to Bulgaria, Premier Li will attend the seventh leaders’ meeting of China and the CEEC, as well as the opening ceremony of the eighth China-CEEC economic and trade forum on July 7, witnessing the signing of project agreements between China and the CEEC.

The theme of the meeting is deepening open and practical cooperation, and jointly promoting and sharing prosperous development.

Since the first China-CEEC summit was held in Warsaw in 2012, the “16+1” mechanism has become a multi-layer, multi-field, and multi-track multilateral exchange and cooperation platform with wide governmental involvement, including state leaders’ meeting, ministerial meetings, coordinators’ meetings, and local leaders’ meetings.

It is an initiative by China aimed at intensifying and expanding cooperation with 11 EU Member States and five Balkan countries in the fields of investment, transport, finance, science, education and culture.

With the promotion of “16 +1 cooperation”, economic connections between China and CEECs are much closer. In 2017, trade between China and CEECs totaled $68 billion, a 15.9 percent increase from the previous year, and China has invested nearly $10 billion in Central and Eastern Europe.

Premier Li also pointed out that China has always firmly supported European integration, and believes that a united, stable and prosperous EU, as well as a strong euro conforms to the fundamental interests of China when meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany as part of the promotion of “16 + 1 cooperation” in May.

Wang Chao said that the meeting will deepen understanding and trust, safeguard multilateralism and facilitation in trade and investment, and discuss the direction and future work for “16+1 cooperation”.

The fifth round of intergovernmental consultations between China and Germany

Then Premier Li will go to Germany and meet German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while co-chairing the intergovernmental consultations.

Premier Li and Merkel will also jointly attend the China-Germany Economic and Technical Cooperation Forum and the China-Germany automated driving exhibition, and will jointly witness the signing of a series of cooperation documents.

“Trade, investment and technological cooperation can be three major topics during Premier Li’s Germany stop. Increasing win-win cooperation between China and Germany is a signal that shows both countries safeguard multilateral trade system and support free trade,” Ren Hongbin, assistant minister of commerce, said during a press briefing on June 29.

The Chinese and German intergovernmental consultation mechanism is the most important platform for planning and advancing China-Germany cooperation. It was formally established in October 2010 and held every two years.

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