SUZHOU — Following is an English version of Premier Li Keqiang’s remarks at the Fifth China and Central and Eastern European Countries Economic and Trade Forum on Nov 24.
Work Together to Open Up New Prospects for Win-Win Cooperation
Address by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the Fifth China and Central and Eastern European Countries Economic and Trade Forum
Suzhou, 24 November 2015
Dear Colleagues, Business Leaders, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,
This is the first time that China hosts the summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC). The fact that we are attending the Fifth China and CEEC Economic and Trade Forum before the summit speaks to the high importance that leaders from the 17 countries place on practical cooperation. It also shows the strong political will of our countries to press for even greater progress in our economic and trade cooperation to boost our economies at home and improve the lives of our peoples.
The economic and trade forum has already been convened four times. Together with the Meeting of Heads of Government, the forum witnessed the growth and fruitful results of the 16+1 cooperation. It has become not only a bond and bridge of friendship but also an important platform for economic and trade cooperation between China and Europe. Despite the weak global economy and sluggish world trade, practical cooperation between China and CEE countries has kept a good momentum. Two-way trade in 2014 exceeded 60 billion U.S. dollars, setting a new record, and China’s import from CEE countries rose by 77.4 percent from the 2010 level. Both figures signify a high degree of mutual political trust between the two sides as well as the immense potential in our trade and investment. Investment in both ways is steadily growing. Chinese companies are very eager to invest in CEE countries. Their investment stock in CEE countries has surpassed 5 billion U.S. dollars, and their destination countries and investment modalities have become more diverse. Businesses from CEE countries are also investing in more sectors in China. Major cooperation projects are moving ahead steadily. Forty percent of the total business generated by contracted projects undertaken by Chinese companies in Europe are in CEE countries. The Belgrade bridge over the Danube has been completed and opened to traffic, marking the completion of the first major project undertaken by China in CEE countries. Other projects undertaken by Chinese companies such as power plants, highways and flood prevention works are moving ahead rapidly. There is an old saying in China, “Those who don’t think, acquire nothing; those who don’t act, achieve nothing.” Indeed, such achievements would not have been possible without the strong support from the governments and the pioneering and unremitting efforts of the business communities and business leaders of both sides.
At present, China is partnering with other countries to advance the Belt and Road initiative. As the 16 CEE countries account for one fourth of the countries along the routes, there is a lot we can do to further synergize our development strategies. In the coming five years, China will strive to attain the goal of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. It is also an important period for the implementation of the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation. Right after this forum, I will join leaders from the 16 CEE countries in a formal meeting. We will adopt the Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation Between China and Central and Eastern European Countries and the Suzhou Guidelines for Cooperation to map out the blueprint for our future cooperation. They are plans to open up broader prospects for our cooperation and bring more benefits to the business communities of the two sides.
Here, I wish to share with you some thoughts on further deepening China-CEEC comprehensive cooperation.
First, we need to push for early completion of connectivity projects. One of the priorities of the 16+1 cooperation is to strengthen regional transport infrastructure in synergy with the Belt and Road initiative. China is ready to synergize its development plans with those of CEE countries. We will make every effort to advance the flagship project of the Budapest-Belgrade railway link and make sure that construction will start within the year and will end in two years’ time. China would also like to push forward the project of the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line with the relevant parties on a win-win basis so that the CEE region will be able to facilitate rapid transit of trade between China and Europe. Companies from all countries are welcome to join the effort and explore the possibility of logistics cooperation. China’s reform and opening-up program started with its coastal regions. So we have rich experience and a strong capacity in port construction and port zone development. China is ready to invest in ports and port zone development in CEE countries to enhance land and sea links. What’s more, we can leverage China’s strength in Internet equipment and technologies and relative low cost and meet the need of CEE countries and engage in Internet infrastructure cooperation to promote Internet connectivity.
Second, we need to give a greater play to production-capacity cooperation. The CEE region now faces the task to upgrade its transportation, electricity and other infrastructure as well as industrial equipment. However, due to the lack of funding and other constraints, the market demand is yet to be unlocked. Some developed countries may have advanced key technologies and equipment, but their equipment sets and products are fairly expensive. China, on its part, has quality production capacity in automobile, iron and steel, shipbuilding, chemicals, port equipment, construction machinery and can offer quality products at relatively low cost. And China is strong in construction capacity and supporting services and can meet the environmental standard of CEE countries. To develop three-way cooperation by combining China’s quality production capacity with CEE countries’ development needs and the key technologies of the western European countries will not only enable CEE countries to speed up development and create more jobs at a lower cost and to boost industrial upgrading in China, but also contribute to more balanced development within Europe and accelerate European integration. China is also willing to discuss with the Baltic countries the possibilities of cooperation in high-speed railway construction and may consider purchasing some key equipment from western European countries. During my visit to France last June, the two countries reached an agreement on jointly exploring third-party market for nuclear power cooperation. A combination of China’s strong equipment manufacturing and supporting services and the advanced French nuclear safety technologies will offer a good value-for-money nuclear power solution with sound safety standards. China is also ready to respond to the aspirations of CEE countries to connect the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas. Cooperation may start with the upgrading of ports, including the development of industrial clusters at ports where conditions allow.
Third, we need to create new highlights in the trade of special agricultural products. China is a major consumer of agricultural products. There is great potential for our cooperation with the CEE region in deep processing of meat, dairy, wine and other agricultural and sideline products as well as in breeding, farming and processing in the animal husbandry sector. China will create conditions to import more goods, especially farm products, from CEE countries. We also welcome the participation of CEEC companies in the China-CEEC Investment and Trade Expo and other trade fairs, so that they can introduce more green products to the Chinese market. We are ready to step up quarantine and inspection cooperation with CEE countries to facilitate trade in agricultural products and improve trade balance.
Fourth, we need to widen channels to address the financing issue. Since China and CEE countries have different legal frameworks, our collaborative projects may encounter some difficulties. China respects relevant EU standards. And we are ready to explore with the governments of the 16 CEE countries to open more channels and offer preferential policy support to major cooperation projects in a more flexible manner. We should fully leverage the 10 billion U.S. dollars special credit line, study the idea of setting up a 3 billion U.S. dollars investment fund, launch the second phase of China-CEEC investment cooperation fund, and discuss the possibility of a RMB fund for China-CEEC cooperation. The Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the China Development Bank have opened branches or representative offices in the CEE region. China supports cooperation with CEE countries in local currency swap, local currency settlement and financial regulation. We propose the setting up of a 16+1 multilateral financial company to reduce financing costs for our cooperation through financial leasing, trade financing, equity investment, PPP and other forms. When Chinese equipment and products are used, China is ready to provide preferential financing support. China’s application to join the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been approved by its Board of Governors, and is waiting for the approval of its board of directors. The two sides are also discussing joint financing, through which CEEC companies can get more funding. China is ready to strengthen financing cooperation through this channel according to EU standards. In addition, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Silk Road Fund and other financial institutions may also provide support to our cooperation projects.
We should give more attention to SME cooperation and development. The prosperity and progress of a country depends on whether the ingenuity of its entire population is unleashed. This requires the big companies to play the backbone role and also needs the numerous SMEs to harness their vitality and advantage in technological innovation. China is energetically pressing ahead with mass entrepreneurship and innovation. We are ready to work with CEE countries to forge platforms for SME innovation cooperation so that our cooperation will spread into more areas and produce more fruitful results.
China and CEE countries enjoy deep traditional friendship. Close cultural and people-to-people links will consolidate the foundation of our business cooperation. We will designate 2016 as the China-CEEC Year of Cultural and People-to-people Exchanges to make full use of our cooperation platforms in culture, education, science and technology, youth, health and other fields and organize colorful events under the framework.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I know you all have a keen interest in China’s economic outlook. Despite the weak recovery of and rising uncertainties in the global economy this year, the Chinese economy has performed steadily within a reasonable range. We are on track to attain around seven percent growth for the whole year and meet the main targets of economic and social development. This will lay the foundation for the Chinese economy to keep a medium-high growth rate and move to a medium-to-high level in the next stage.
The Chinese economy is moving steadily in the right direction. This trend will not change. In our vigorous efforts to promote structural reform and adjustment, we are working to foster twin engines of growth, i.e. promoting mass entrepreneurship and innovation and increasing public goods and services. We will unlock the dynamism of market players and creativity of the society by taking new approaches to streamline administration and delegate power, strengthening regulation and improving government services. The Chinese economy has great resilience, huge potential and ample room for readjustment. The upgrading of consumption of over 1.3 billion Chinese people will generate the largest market demand the world has ever seen. Parallel progress in the new type of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization will further expand the space of development.
China is drafting its 13th five-year plan on economic and social development. It will adopt a new development approach featuring innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development to achieve its ambitious blueprint for a moderately prosperous society in all respects. In the next five years, annual growth rate needs to be kept above 6.5 percent. At this rate, our per capita GDP will reach around 12,000 U.S. dollars by 2020. That will be close to the level of high-income countries according to World Bank standard and allow us to basically avoid the middle-income trap. If achieved, it will mark another milestone in China’s modernization process, offer even more development opportunities for CEEC and other countries, and make new contribution to global economic recovery and world peace, stability and prosperity. China will open up at a higher level, promote our equipment, technologies, standards and services around the world, and ease market access in finance, education, health care, old-age care and other fields. As we open up even wider, we would be happy to see CEE countries share in the dividends of China’s prosperity and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A proverb in CEE countries says that the faint-hearted will always wait at the foot of the hill, and only the brave can climb to the top. And a Chinese saying goes that one should have the commitment and lose no opportunity to make achievements. Now, the good opportunity of China-CEEC cooperation is within reach. I hope that the business leaders present today will seize the opportunity and work together to open up new prospects for win-win cooperation between China and Europe.
I wish the Fifth China-CEEC Economic and Trade Forum a complete success.