Address at the Seventh China-CEEC Business Forum
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Budapest, 27 November 2017
Prime Minister Orban Viktor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to come to the beautiful city of Budapest and join you at the seventh China-CEEC Business Forum. On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to extend warm congratulations on the opening of the Forum and pay high tribute to the people from various sectors who have devoted to the China-CEEC friendship and cooperation.
“16+1” cooperation, which was jointly launched by China and CEE countries, is a pioneering endeavor of China-Europe friendly cooperation. In 2011, the first China-CEEC Business Forum was held in Budapest, setting “16+1” cooperation in motion. Thanks to the joint efforts of our governments and business communities, we have set up a well-structured framework and expanded the scope of our cooperation with fruitful outcomes. Cumulative investments by Chinese companies in the 16 CEE countries grew from nearly US$3 billion in 2010 to more than US$9 billion in 2016. Two-way trade rose from US$43.9 billion to US$58.7 billion. The CEEC’s agricultural exports to China surged more than 300%. And a total of 6,000 plus freight trains have traveled between China and European countries.
A review of this remarkable course of “16+1” cooperation brings us to the following conclusions.
First, being results-oriented is a defining feature of “16+1” cooperation. More than 200 specific cooperation measures have been rolled out in such key areas as trade, investment, connectivity, industrial capacity, finance, green economy and people-to-people exchange. In particular, several major initiatives have been pursued to leverage the geographical advantage of CEE countries. The Budapest-Belgrade railway, the China-Europe Land Sea Express Line and the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Seaport Cooperation have all made initial progress. At each “16+1” summit, we as leaders would pay special attention to the views and appeals from the business communities and focus on tackling specific difficulties arising from our practical cooperation in an expeditious manner. The fact that the Business Forum has been held on the sidelines of the summit each year is, in itself, a reflection of the results-oriented nature of “16+1” cooperation.
Second, “16+1” cooperation has been a business-led, government-supported and market-driven process. You, the entrepreneurs, are the sailors on board the big ship of “16+1” cooperation. You play a crucial role in enabling the ship to brave winds and waves. The government’s responsibility is to provide overall guidance, build institutions and platforms for cooperation, foster an enabling trade and investment environment by offering necessary policy support, and protect the lawful rights and interests of all companies. Our cooperation projects over the years, be they on industrial capacity or connectivity, have all followed commercial principles and internationally accepted rules. This has helped us to leverage our respective strengths and reap win-win outcomes.
Third, “16+1” cooperation has been an important component of and beneficial complement to the overall China-Europe relationship. As a platform for trans-regional and practical cooperation, “16+1” cooperation has consistently followed the principle of openness and transparency and has been pursued in the broader context of China-Europe relations and in light of relevant EU laws and regulations. “16+1” cooperation is open to other countries and international organizations, who are welcome to participate in a tripartite format to advance the interests of all. Over the years, we have admitted six observers including the EU and Austria, and proactively engaged the Visegrad Group and other regional cooperation initiatives to open the door of our cooperation ever wider and bring benefits to ever more people. Past progress shows that rather than undercutting Europe’s overall interests, “16+1” cooperation has injected positive energy into the European integration process and contributed to the more even development of China-Europe relations.
Fourth, “16+1” cooperation promises broad prospects. Enjoying a profound traditional friendship and a high level of mutual trust, China and CEE countries view each other as an important cooperation partner. Both our economies show a strong momentum of growth and possess respective comparative strengths in the market, resources, industry, technology and capital. Yet China-CEEC trade now accounts for only 11% of China-Europe trade, and our investment stock a mere 2%. Much potential remains to be tapped. In particular, progress in the building of the Belt and Road Initiative has presented “16+1” cooperation with unprecedented opportunities.
In the past few years, we have been able to identify clear goals, institute the overall framework and lay a solid foundation for “16+1” cooperation. Going forward, we will further expand and upgrade “16+1” cooperation in light of the changing international landscape and the expectations of our business communities by introducing better-targeted policy measures to foster a freer and more open trade and investment environment. With the theme of “deepening economic, trade and financial cooperation for win-win development”, this forum aims to boost the twin engines of trade and finance to propel the ship of “16+1” cooperation forward in a steady and sustained way.
– We need to forge greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the development strategies of CEE countries. As President Xi Jinping repeatedly underscored during meetings with leaders of CEE countries, “16+1” cooperation should serve as a major gateway in the further implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative in the European economic circle. China will work with CEE countries, in line with the principle of achieving shared growth through consultation and collaboration, to make the CEE region an early beneficiary of the outcomes of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. We need to speed up the building of the Budapest-Belgrade railway and other connectivity projects, work for the sound development of freight train services, expand international industrial capacity cooperation, and jointly build a number of economic and trade cooperation zones, with a view to developing better integrated chains of industry, of value and of logistics with stronger impetus and broader benefits.
– We need to vigorously promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. Cooperation among customs authorities should be enhanced. Enterprises with a track record of compliance will be offered greater facilitation in terms of streamlined customs procedures, lower inspection rate, and speedy customs clearances to speed up logistics operations. In light of the need for a stronger mechanism for communication and coordination on inspection and quarantine, China will streamline inspection and quarantine access procedures to facilitate export of high-quality agricultural products such as meat, dairy products, honey and fruits from CEE countries to China. We will explore the possibility of setting up an e-commerce cooperation mechanism in support of cross-border e-commerce and foster new growth areas in trade.
In 2018, China will host the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai, which is a major initiative and action by China to promote trade liberalization and open up its market to the world. CEEC companies are more than welcome to take part in the Expo, and China will provide you with assistance and facilitation. China encourages the setup of “16+1” economic and trade cooperation demonstration zones in Ningbo and other Chinese cities, which will serve as platforms for strengthening trade and investment cooperation, and a green channel, in particular, for CEEC exports to China. China has rolled out a foreign investment management model nationwide based on pre-establishment national treatment and negative list. We are ready to explore with CEE countries the opening of a green channel for investment cooperation, and hopes that CEE countries will provide Chinese investors with conveniences in visa and work permit applications.
– We need to further expand financing channels. China supports commercial and development financial institutions in financing China-CEE cooperation projects and encourages RMB financing in these projects. We support CEEC companies in issuing Panda bonds in China. The China-CEE Fund launched by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in 2017 is well received by all sides as it has expanded the channels for market-based investment and financing. Hereby, I wish to announce two new measures in this area. First, the China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association is officially established today. The China Development Bank will provide two billion euros equivalent development finance facility. Second, the second stage of the China-CEEC Investment Cooperation Fund has been completed with a fresh capitalization of US$1 billion, most of which will be invested in Central and Eastern Europe.
– We need to enhance cooperation among SMEs. “16+1” cooperation, while encouraging the leading role of large enterprises, should also give full play to the supporting role of SMEs. Hence enterprises of all sizes will be able to forge synergy and grow together. On the sidelines of this Forum, the China-CEEC SMEs Matchmaking Event 2017 will be held, with the participation of around 400 companies. We will set up more cooperation mechanisms and service platforms, and promote the early establishment of a “16+1” SMEs Center to help SMEs to trade with each other and identify cooperation projects.