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22nd Jan 2019

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The "sixteen plus one" cooperation will take China-EU relations to a new level

On November 24, the 4th Meeting of Heads of Government of China and the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) was successfully convened in Suzhou city of China. Under the theme of "New Starting Point, New Fields and New Vision", Premier Li Keqiang and CEEC leaders took stock of the implementation of the Belgrade Guidelines for cooperation between the two sides. They explored new initiatives and reached extensive consensus on enhancing connectivity and furthering bilateral trade, investment, finance, education, agriculture and regional cooperation as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Two important documents signed

During the meeting, Premier Li proposed to set up a "one goal plus six priorities" framework for China-CEEC cooperation, calling for joint efforts to realize the shared goal of building a new type of open, inclusive and win-win partnership and press ahead with the six prioritized fields for cooperation - defining the roadmap for fostering cooperation, promoting synergy in development strategies, setting up new models of production capacity cooperation, innovating investment and finance cooperation, boosting trade and investment as well as expanding people-to-people exchanges. Two important documents - the Mid-term Plan on China-CEEC Cooperation and the Suzhou Guidelines for China-CEEC Cooperation were adopted, making the Suzhou Meeting a new milestone in the development of the China-CEEC relationship.

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China-CEEC cooperation is often referred to as the "sixteen plus one" cooperation. The current dynamic "sixteen plus one" cooperation is not only based on the traditional friendly ties but also driven by growing practical demand of both sides. The economies of China, the largest developing country in the world, and the sixteen countries, most of which emerging markets, are highly complementary. The Chinese enterprises can leverage their full-fledged experiences and technologies in infrastructure building to help the CEE countries where demands of the kind are increasingly rising. To find synergy between China's manufacturing capacities with the development strategy of CEE countries becomes a win-win choice for Chinese enterprises to "go global" and for the latter to boost their economic growth.

Ever since its establishment in 2012, the Meeting of Heads of Government of China and the CEE countries has played an integral part in guiding and driving the cooperation to the fast track of development. Bilateral trade has been growing remarkably and two-way investment expanding to more and more sectors. In 2014, trade volume between the two sides exceeded US$ 60 billion, an increase of almost 50% over 2010. Direct Chinese investment in the CEE countries hit US$ five billion, providing a great amount of employment and development opportunities for local residents.

From Warsaw to Bucharest, from Belgrade to Suzhou

A series of key cooperation projects have been launched under the framework of the "sixteen plus one" mechanism. With the Chinese loans, construction of Danube River Bridge in Belgrade of Serbia, thermal power station in Sitannali of Bosnia, new Macedonia highways and reconstruction of Kostolac power station have started smoothly and continued to make progress. More projects, including Hungary-Serbia railway and China-Europe land-sea express passage, are under discussion.

The "sixteen plus one" cooperation is transparent, open and inclusive. Being part and parcel of the China-EU cooperation, it complements and adds more value to the comprehensive strategic partnership. It has helped to unleash the potential vitality of the CEE countries which cover one third of the EU territory and accommodate one fourth of its population. More importantly, it will be beneficial in promoting EU's integration by addressing the uneven development among EU's member states.

Future China-EU cooperation

The "sixteen plus one" cooperation also fits well with the future direction of China-EU cooperation as defined by the leaders of both sides. During his visit to the EU headquarters last year, President Xi Jinping and his European counterparts agreed on establishing the China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization. This year, China and the EU reached consensus on drawing synergies between the Belt and Road initiative and the development strategy, the global production capacity cooperation and the Juncker plan, as well as China-CEEC cooperation and China-EU cooperation. Giving full play to their geographic location connecting the Asian and European continent, the CEE countries can play a critical role in infrastructure and connectivity building as well as global production capacity cooperation, thus contributing to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

From Warsaw to Bucharest, from Belgrade to Suzhou, the "sixteen plus one" cooperation is growing stronger in the span of four years. It has brought win-win benefits to China, the CEE countries and the EU, proving that countries from different regions with different systems can brave a new path in seeking for cooperation.

Suzhou meeting has turned a new page for China-CEEC cooperation. Looking to the future, we are fully confident that it will inject new impetus to China-CEEC and China-EU relations, and take China-EU cooperation to a new level.

Author: Charge d'affaire a.i., Mr. Zhang Lirong, Chinese Mission to the European Union

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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