Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

Premier of the State Council of China Li Keqiang Visits Bulgaria

Premier of the State Council of China Li Keqiang Visits Bulgaria

Li said free trade is essential to global stability.

Li Keqiang told a summit with central and eastern European leaders that China would continue opening its markets and implementing other reforms that had fuelled its economy, providing opportunities for EU members and aspirants in the bloc's poorer half.

China has promised billions of dollars for development projects in central and eastern Europe as part of its Belt and Road strategy to carve out new export markets. "I think that Premier Li Keqiang will adopt a low profile on issues that might infringe on community affairs of the EU this time around", said Francois Godement, director of Asia and China programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Chinese investment in Germany equals only one tenth of German investment in China, less than 0.3 percent of total foreign investment in Germany, and is incomparable with German investment in China in terms of quality, he noted.

Free trade and worldwide cooperation must be upheld to avoid slowing down the global economy, the Chinese premier told peers from central and eastern Europe Saturday.

Li hurried to downplay Brussels' concerns on Friday.

If Europe is weakened, it will only be bad news for China, not the other way around.

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"Such a project should be carried out in a transparent way and I invite third parties to participate, for example, global organisations and banks", Keqiang said speaking through an interpreter during a news conference after a meeting with Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov broadcast by Bulgarian TV channel Kanal 3.

Li said economic reform had played a critical role in China's growth, and that the fundamentals underpinning it remained unchanged.

Beijing earlier accused Washington of triggering the "largest-scale trade war".

While U.S. President Donald Trump frequently has criticized the European Union on trade and security issues and the two powers are in the middle of their own tariff battles, Li was very complimentary of the EU. "Unity between China and Europe and cooperation between us can ensure peace and stability in the whole world".

Li said China would like to import more agricultural products from central and eastern Europe and was interested in buying up to 10 million tons of tobacco leaves from Bulgaria.

In September 2017, Bulgaria signed a memorandum of understanding with Greece on the development of a high-speed railway corridor linking major Greek Aegean ports with Bulgarian ports on the Danube river and the Black Sea coast. "From now on, we begin carrying out transparent procedures on hybrid projects with the World Bank and EBRD, so that Europe can be calm", Borisov said.

"First and foremost, our cooperation is of win-win and mutual benefit", Li insisted.

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