Stronger transport interconnection vital to expand China-CEEC trade, cooperation
2018-10-17 10:07 | Xinhua

  Transport cooperation between China and Central and East European Countries (CEEC) within the 16+1 mechanism should be strengthened so that interconnection would accompany the trend of increasing trade among these countries, China's Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng made the suggestion at the 3rd China-CEEC Meeting of Ministers of Transport here on Tuesday.

  The Chinese minister especially mentioned the cooperation in water transport, logistics and human resources.

  Speaking at a press conference together with Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic after the first session of the meeting, Li pointed out that the increase in overall trade between China and CEE region created an urge for stronger interconnection.

  He illustrated that last year the overall trade between China and 16 countries summed up to 68 billion U.S. dollars, while its share in the overall China-EU trade increased from 9.3 to 11 percent.

  "Our wish is to achieve further development, together with CEE countries, as well as to strengthen the cooperation in transport and infrastructure within the 16+1 mechanism, along with strengthening political ties in order to achieve long-term cooperation," Li said, reminding that the cooperation within the 16+1 mechanism is based on mutual benefit of its participants and win-win cooperation.

  Li gave four suggestions to deepen the China-CEE transport cooperation: that each country strengthens its support to infrastructure interconnection, to further develop cooperation in the area of water and maritime transport, to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in logistics and finally to advance management by strengthening capacity of human resources in this area.

  In the name of the host, Mihajlovic, also the minister of construction, transport and infrastructure said that participants "not only exchanged experiences from each of the individual countries about our development of infrastructural projects, but also talked about the ways to improve interconnection, and to jointly influence in order to decrease non-physical obstacles that exist among the countries of this region, which also means increasing the flow of goods and people across borders".

  "CEE countries established this mechanism together with China, and from the perspective of Serbia it has so far fulfilled all our expectations. I think that we can continue to make progress in this regard in the following years, because each additional interconnection through infrastructure, whether energy or transport, will definitely bring additional investments, new jobs as well as better living standard for citizens, which is in fact - sustainable growth," Mihajlovic pointed out.

  She reminded that since the establishment of the 16+1 mechanism, Serbia has attracted 16 billion euros of investments, of which almost 9 billion are joint investments with China in infrastructure and other projects.

  The meeting of transport ministers came together with the 3rd China-CEEC Capital Mayors Forum at the Palace of Serbia with the presence of delegations from 17 countries, members of the Serbian government and the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic.

  At the joint opening ceremony, President Vucic spoke highly of the 16+1 mechanism and the Belt and Road Initiative, from which Serbia achieved a great benefit from dozens of projects with China.

  "The participation in the Belt and Road initiative brings benefit to all participants... Serbia's drop in unemployment to 11.9 percent, its GDP growth of 4.9 percent in first six months... trajectory of the public debt is in decrease despite all factors... Despite all great infrastructural projects our debt, which was 79 percent of GDP when I became the prime minister in 2014, will drop to 48 percent on Jan. 1, 2019," he said, adding "Serbia would not achieve such good economic results if it weren't for the assistance of China and regional countries."

  Vucic underlined that without cooperation with Chinese friends and their positive pressure to "build something, to bridge the rivers, to build new roads, we would never have succeeded ourselves," encouraging regional countries to interconnect through infrastructure and to make use of the Belt and Road Initiative.

  At the plenary session of the ministerial summit, participants discussed the possibilities for improving coordination in the planning, evaluation and implementation of transport infrastructure projects in the region in order to better connect Europe and Asia.

  The participants also exchanged views on new opportunities that could advance the process of cooperation within the 16+1 mechanism, with the expectation that an agreement on a proposal for a single China-CEEC priority list of transport infrastructure projects could be achieved, encompassing all the countries of this group before the next ministerial meeting to be held in Croatia in 2019.

  The meeting also emphasized that long retention at border crossings diminishes the efficiency of investments in infrastructure, which is a problem that needs to be addressed as a priority. In this respect, it is proposed to intensify cooperation in relation to the achievement of more efficient border procedures, with the development of infrastructure where necessary, to establish a one-stop shop system and integrated border crossings with as few border-stops as possible.

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