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China, Latvia to expand co-op in infrastructure, transportation

China-Latvia relations are set to leap forward. Visiting Premier Li Keqiang and his hosts have all expressed strong interest in further boosting practical cooperation.

While holding talks in Riga on Nov 4 with his Latvian counterpart, Maris Kucinskis, Premier Li said China regards Latvia as an important transit station for China-EU trade. He promoted China’s cost-effective equipment and rich experience in railway and port construction, and said China stands ready to participate in major projects including Rail Baltica and the three-sea harbor district.

Kucinskis said Latvia wants to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and cooperate in infrastructure, transportation, logistics, clean oil refining, tourism, education and farm products. He also promised to offer a stable environment for Chinese investment and become a portal for Chinese businesses to enter the Central and Eastern European market. Our correspondent Guy Henderson interviewed Prime Minister Kucinskis after his meeting with Premier Li for more details of their talks.

Henderson: “Any projects specifically you can mention?”

Kucinskis: “During the build-up to this weekend’s 16+1 meeting we’ve already met and worked on a single pitch to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and today I mentioned those proposals to him. And we have three specific projects that we can offer in the transit and logistics sector. But those projects depend on the implementation of the R-Baltica project.

We would like to build and develop a distribution center which would allow us to switch from one width gauge to another width gauge. We’re looking to China as a potential partner that might help us build this distribution center. And there is also the Riga free port where the logistics center might be developed to transit from rail to cargo ships and to other means of transport to Europe and to Scandinavia. Then there is also Vanspels free port — a whole area that has been designated for the development of a northern port as well as a distribution center.

This is another thing that we might offer to the Chinese; and then there is also the logistics center in that area of the airport where the Chinese might participate. So these are our proposals which we’ve voiced today to the Chinese PM. Very concrete, very specific: we’re looking for partners for the implementation of these projects.”