China plans to import USD 170 billion worth of goods from CEEC over the next five years

Chinese Ambassador Liang Jianquan answers Neatkarīgā's questions.
23.02.2021. JPJuris Paiders
©Ķīnas vēstniecība Latvijā

On 30 December 2020, it was announced that the EU and China concluded in principle the negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between the EU and China. China has pledged to ensure fairer treatment and greater market access for EU investors than before. China also agreed with the EU's policy on important provisions for sustainable development, both in terms of climate change and forced labor. China has committed itself to ratifying the International Labor Organization (ILO) fundamental Conventions. What were China's main interests in concluding this agreement?

After more than seven years of joint efforts, China and the EU have negotiated a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between China and the EU and have entered in a stable, high-level and mutually beneficial investment agreement. This not only demonstrates China's commitment and confidence in promoting a high level of openness but also provides greater market access for investment between China and the EU, a better business environment, stronger institutional guarantees and brighter prospects for investment between China and the EU. It was highly praised by representatives of all sectors in China and Europe, as well as by the international community. It is widely believed that this is a turning point in China-EU economic and trade cooperation and a victory for multilateralism. In a difficult situation where the pandemic has severely damaged the global economy, the conclusion of a China-EU investment agreement will contribute to global economic recovery, support multilateralism and protect a rules-based open world economy.

I would like to emphasize that the China-EU investment agreement is mutually beneficial. It benefits not only China and the EU, but also the recovery and growth of the world economy. It is in the interests of all parties and economic globalization trends, as well as reflects the right direction of historical development.

Can China-EU rapprochement offset the deterioration in US-China trade relations?

As the world's two largest powers, the two largest markets and the two largest civilizations, Sino-European relations have an independent value and should not be subordinate to any superpower relationship. China and the EU are comprehensive strategic partners. The conclusion of an investment agreement between China and the EU is sensible and independent. This agreement is a bilateral economic and trade agreement between China and the EU, and it is neither a geopolitical tool nor against the interests of third parties, nor does it affect them. In the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, both sides overcame countless difficulties and reached an agreement that demonstrates the great appeal of free trade and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Over the past year, despite the pandemic, China-EU relations have made new progress. China became the EU's largest trading partner for the first time, the two sides signed an EU-China geographical indications agreement, decided to set up two high-level dialogue mechanisms on the environment, climate and digital fields, and jointly established a China-EU green cooperation and digital partnership. President Xi Jinping and European leaders jointly announced the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, bringing a new strong impetus to China-EU cooperation and bringing great benefits to the dreary global economy.

This proves that cooperation between China and the EU, as long as both sides understand each other and negotiate equally, will have even wider prospects. In the new historical context, China and the EU should adhere to the principles of mutual respect, seeking a common language while maintaining differences, mutually beneficial cooperation, working together to build consensus, maintaining confidence in open cooperation, strongly supporting multilateralism, creating larger China-EU cooperation and together we need to inject more certainty and positive energy into a world of growing uncertainty.

What differences of opinion were recorded in Chinese President Xi Jinping's talks with EU leaders on climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hong Kong issue and human rights?

On December 30, 2020, President Xi Jinping participated in a video conference with EU, French and German leaders to jointly announce the conclusion of negotiations on a China-EU investment agreement, as planned. The China-EU summit focused on the China-EU investment agreement and reached an important consensus.

During the Covid-19 devastation, China and Europe supported and assisted each other. When the pandemic broke out in China, European countries, including Latvia, donated epidemic prevention and control materials to China. Following the outbreak in Europe, China also donated materials and sent teams of experts to Europe. The two sides have worked together effectively, establishing rapid staff exchanges, stabilizing industrial and supply chains, among other aspects.

Climate change is a challenge for all humankind, and all countries should strengthen cooperation and act together. China will increase its state contributions, adopt more effective policies and measures, strive for a carbon cap by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2060, which is part of its economic and social development plan. These are not only China's enormous efforts to tackle climate change, but also the objective need for China to achieve comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development. China will unswervingly pursue domestic measures and strive to achieve its goals. China and the EU have a broad consensus and great potential for cooperation on tackling climate change, promoting global climate governance and green and high-quality development.

Given the differences in historical background, cultural traditions, social systems and stages of economic development, it is natural that China and the EU have different views and approaches on some issues. It is important for China and the EU to understand the main direction of cooperation and development, to act in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, not to interfere in internal affairs, to seek a common language while maintaining differences, mutually beneficial cooperation and results, to promote mutual understanding through dialogue and the proper management and resolution of disagreements, and in particular to take seriously and respect each other's main interests and concerns. This is an important precondition for the stable and sustainable development of China-EU relations.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) was one of the first countries to recognize the restoration of Latvia's independence on September 7, 1991. Diplomatic relations were established on September 12, 1991. In 2021, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Latvia will be celebrated. What are the key lessons from our cooperation at this time? Given the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, how will this important anniversary for Latvia be celebrated in China?

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Latvia 30 years ago, bilateral relations with the joint efforts of both parties have achieved sustainable and stable development with fruitful results. At present, bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the political, economic and trade, cultural exchanges and other fields have maintained strong momentum. The further development of mutually beneficial and friendly cooperation between China and Latvia has become a consensus of both parties. Looking at the development of bilateral relations, three important lessons can be learned.

First of all, the experience of the development of Sino-Latvian relations shows us that as long as both sides show mutual understanding and respect, take each other's most important interests and main concerns seriously, the development of bilateral relations can be steadily promoted.

Second, with an open mind and in line with the desire of both peoples for closer exchanges and cooperation, China and Latvia actively promote wider interaction between different fields, such as culture, education, sports, youth, industry and trade, science and technology, local governments and the media to continuously improve friendly cooperation between China and Latvia.

Third, in recent years, pragmatic cooperation between China and Latvia in various fields has continued to progress. Cooperation based on mutual benefit has brought tangible benefits to both countries and both nations and has become an inexhaustible driving force for the sustainable development of Sino-Latvian relations.

2021 is a very important year for China, Latvia and the relations between the two countries. China is ready to join hands with Latvia to use the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations as an opportunity to consolidate greater consensus and walk new paths, to work together to take bilateral relations to a new level. Given the current actual situation of the pandemic, we will focus on three aspects to promote exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

First, it is essential to maintain and strengthen political exchanges and improve mutual understanding. To strengthen exchanges and contacts between the two countries in the frameworks of Sino-European cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative and the 17+1 cooperation format, to promote exchanges in all areas at all levels, including governments, parliaments, local authorities, industry and commerce, universities to improve mutual understanding.

Second, we want to promote human and cultural exchanges and deepen the friendship between China and Latvia. According to the epidemiological situation, to organize various cultural exchange events in Latvia in innovative ways, to support high-level art groups on both sides, conducting cultural exchange events both online and offline to deepen the friendship between the two nations.

Third, it is important to deepen practical cooperation and promote joint development. To continue using the potential of cooperation between the two countries in the fields of high technology, transport and logistics, digital economy and green development. Latvian companies are welcome to participate in the China International Import Expo and the China-Central and Eastern European Countries Expo to expand the export of high-quality goods to China. We will support the desire of more and more Chinese companies to visit and invest in Latvia in order to further deepen mutual benefits and give better results to both nations.

Cooperation between Latvia and China takes place both in a bilateral format and within the framework of EU-China relations. One of the productive forms of cooperation is the Central and Eastern European countries and China (17+1) cooperation format and the Belt and Road Initiative. Latvia's priorities in cooperation with China were related to the transport and logistics sector, attracting investment to high value-added projects, trade relations and tourism promotion, as well as student and faculty exchanges. To what extent can this cooperation take place this year, given the constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic?

In recent years, within the frameworks of the Belt and Road Initiative and the 17+1 cooperation format, economic and trade relations between China and Latvia have become more active, and bilateral trade has also grown steadily. China places importance on strengthening cooperation with Latvia in the fields of trade, investment, transport and logistics, tourism and education, which are also the main areas of cooperation between China and Latvia. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and other adverse factors, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has not slowed down in 2020, and new progress has been made in many areas.

In the field of trade, China and Latvia are actively researching Latvian products with production potential and are driving Latvia to expand its exports to China. At present, many products of Latvian companies have successfully entered the Chinese market. In the field of investment, the project of the gene sequencing equipment production center and life sciences and technology platform established by the Beijing Genomics Institute in Latvia is proceeding smoothly, with a total investment of 38 million euros. In the field of transport and logistics, China supports Latvia's role as a regional logistics hub and, together with Latvia, is actively exploring the possibility of opening direct flights from China to Latvia and Sino-European freight trains. In the field of tourism, the tourism industry of the two countries has established close ties in strengthening cooperation. We believe that after the pandemic, tourism cooperation between the two countries will continue to improve. In the field of education, more and more Chinese students are considering Latvia as a destination for studying abroad. We believe that after the pandemic, there will be more opportunities for exchanges and cooperation in higher education between the two sides.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, China and Latvia have always understood, supported and helped each other. The resilience and potential of economic and trade relations between the two countries reflect the fact that the pandemic is short-term and the long-term positive trend of economic and trade cooperation between China and Latvia will not change. Although the year 2021 has just begun, we are pleased to see that on January 15, the Harbin Municipal Government and the Riga Varnish and Paint Factory remotely signed a strategic cooperation agreement online for the use of mineral paint in the reconstruction of Harbin's old residential areas. This is a significant achievement in Sino-Latvian economic and trade cooperation within the 17+1 cooperation format. Stenders company is also actively increasing production capacity and plans to expand production in the first quarter of this year. In addition, China will host a series of online exhibitions and trade cooperation events to provide a platform for exchange and cooperation between companies from the two countries. We believe that China and Latvia will turn challenges into opportunities and jointly promote pragmatic cooperation in all areas within the frameworks of the Belt and Road Initiative and the 17+1 cooperation format.

A summit of Chinese and Central and Eastern European leaders, chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, took place online on 9 February. Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs participated in the summit as a high-level representative. Please provide a brief overview of the summit, as well as China's observations and plans to further promote cooperation between China and the CEE countries.

In accordance with the epidemiological situation, the China-CEEC summit was successfully held on 9 February with the agreement of all parties. Chinese President Xi Jinping chaired the summit and delivered a keynote speech. This summit is the highest meeting of leaders since the establishment of the cooperation mechanism between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This fully reflects China's focus on cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and has received a positive response and broad participation from all countries. The summit was attended by 17 heads of state and government and high-level representatives from Central and Eastern Europe. Upon invitation, it was also attended by observers from Austria, Belarus, Switzerland, the EU institutions and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The China-Central and Eastern European Cooperation Format, established in 2012, is a platform for interregional cooperation initiatives launched jointly by China and Central and Eastern European countries based on common expectations and focusing on the common needs of both parties. This cooperation mechanism is an important part of and a valuable complement to China-EU relations. It contributes to the development of China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as to the comprehensive and balanced development of China-EU relations. Over the nine years, all parties, in accordance with the principles of enhanced consultation, joint investment and shared benefits, as well as following the concept of openness, transparency and inclusion, have contributed to the continuous improvement of this cooperation mechanism, the continuous expansion of the areas of cooperation and the increasing achievements. Compared to nine years ago, China's total trade with Central and Eastern Europe has grown by 85% to more than USD 100 billion. Exports from Central and Eastern Europe to China have increased by 15%, while the number of tourists in both directions has almost quadrupled. China has invested more than USD 16.8 billion in the Central and Eastern European region. The China-Europe freight train route covers most of Central and Eastern Europe and has been traveled more than 30,000 times in total.

Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, economic recovery and other global challenges, the leaders of the 17+1 member states agreed on four priorities for cooperation, namely the fight against the virus through solidarity, pragmatic cooperation, connectivity and green innovation. The Beijing action plan for 2021 Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries was adopted, setting the direction for the next phase of cooperation. President Xi Jinping set out a number of important initiatives and measures, such as "addressing the challenges of the pandemic, focusing on connectivity, taking a pragmatic approach and focusing on green innovation", including: China is ready for vaccine cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries; China plans to import more than USD 170 billion worth of goods from Central and Eastern Europe over the next five years; China plans to use 2021, the China-CEEC Cooperation's Year of Green Development and Environmental Protection, as an opportunity to deepen exchanges and cooperation in the green economy, clean energy and other areas; and China will work to double Central and Eastern European agricultural exports to China over the next five years and increase trade turnover in agricultural products on both sides by 50 percent.

China believes that with this summit as a new starting point and with the joint efforts of both sides, cooperation between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will certainly be a success.

Latvia is currently facing some difficulties with the supply of Covid-19 vaccines. As we know, Hungary is the first EU Member State to approve a vaccine against Covid-19 developed by the Chinese company Sinopharm. Recently, the first consignment of Chinese vaccines was delivered to Hungary. What are the conditions (price, quantity, etc.) for the supply of Chinese vaccine to EU countries?

The Covid-19 pandemic is still spreading around the world today. China wants to at the same time fight the pandemic in China, overcome its difficulties and, given the nature of vaccines as a global public good, provide them to the world at a fair and reasonable price. China has provided vaccine assistance to 53 developing countries and has exported vaccines to 22 countries. China has also been actively involved in the global COVAX initiative and has decided to provide it with 10 million doses of the vaccine. China supports the joint research and development and production of vaccines by local companies and their foreign partners. We also support companies in exporting vaccines to countries where they are urgently needed and where the use of Chinese vaccines for emergency use is authorized and allowed.

China will work with Central and Eastern European countries to combat the pandemic through solidarity and coordination. The two sides could improve joint action in pandemic elimination and control and the exchange of experience in prevention and treatment, explore opportunities for cooperation in the field of traditional medicine and expand cooperation in public health and medicine. These efforts will contribute to a global health community. China is ready to work with Central and Eastern European countries on vaccines. Serbia has now received 1 million doses of vaccine from Chinese companies, and the first batch of vaccine exported from China to Hungary was officially delivered on 16 February. If necessary, China will actively consider such cooperation with other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

China will continue to work with all parties to strengthen cooperation on vaccines, virus prevention and control and to work together for a final victory in the global fight against the pandemic.