Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is to visit Bulgaria and Germany between July 5 and 10. China News Service
China News Service

China remains open for trade with foreign partners and can only benefit from an economically strong Europe, its leader said on Saturday.

Premier Li Keqiang said this at a summit with central and eastern European leaders as he pressed for expanded ties with the continent’s eastern wing while waging a tariff war with Washington.

“China will stick to the path of opening its markets and other reforms that had fueled its economy, providing opportunities for EU members and aspirants in the bloc’s poorer half.

“It is two-way traffic.

“Opening up has been a key driver of China’s reform agenda so we will continue to open wider to the world, including widening market access for foreign investors,” Li said through an interpreter.

Li’s attendance at the seventh “16+1” summit in Sofia coincided with the firing of the first salvos in what risks becoming a protracted global trade war as Washington and Beijing slapped tariffs on 34 billion dollars worth of each others’ goods.

Doubts have been growing in some participating countries of the value of the annual meetings, and China has come under pressure to reassure that its courting of individual countries from the Baltics to the Balkans would not hurt the EU as a whole.

“If Europe is weakened, it will only be bad news for China, not the other way around, this platform needs to stay open. It needs to be transparent,” Li said.

Officials from the EU, World Bank, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were invited and Li said those organisations were welcome to jointly fund projects in the region.

Mindful of the need to keep relations with the EU on an even keel as his trade battles with U.S. President Donald Trump intensify, Li has been careful to stress China’s support for European integration and rules in trade and procurement.

Analysts said he would avoid raising issues that might annoy western European governments.

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.

More than 250 Chinese companies and 700 business people from central and eastern Europe were expected to attend an economic forum alongside the summit, seeking deals in trade, technology, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.

Countries taking part in the summit include the region’s EU states, plus Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

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