Beijing and Sofia vow new initiatives

By WU JIAO and MO JINGXI ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-14 00:44:57

Beijing and Sofia vow new initiatives

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) holds a welcome ceremony for Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev before their talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 13, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

Increased investment will enhance cooperation on infrastructure

As President Xi Jinping played host to a foreign counterpart for the first time this year, China and Bulgaria pledged on Monday to enhance cooperation in infrastructure and energy projects.

The meeting between Xi and Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev saw the two countries sign agreements on marine transportation and the opening of new cultural centers in Beijing and Sofia.

Experts said the agreements will increase Chinese investment in Bulgaria, which will be crucial to the country's development.

Plevneliev's visit, the first by a Bulgarian president to China in more than 15 years, has also seen the two countries increase their relationship to a comprehensive partnership of friendship and cooperation.

"Both countries should make concerted efforts to ensure development of bilateral ties in the new era," Xi said.

Speaking through a translator, Plevneliev said that "Bulgaria is not the biggest economy in the EU, but one of the best friends of China in the EU".

A joint communique issued by the two countries on Monday said the presidents agreed to further enhance their cooperation in projects such as expressways, tunnels, bridges, airports, ports and railways in Bulgaria.

"We are ready to grant use of our ports on the Danube River and the Black Sea," Plevneliev said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency published on Friday. "We are ready to grant highways, tunnels and bridges, and hydropower complexes that will be built between Bulgaria and Romania by our Chinese partners."

The communique also said that agriculture will become a new key sector in the two countries' cooperation.

Plevneliev said earlier that Bulgaria, rich in agricultural resources, is ready to provide industrial zones and farmland for food production.

Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria Wei Jinghua said that Bulgarian products such as yogurt, wine and rose oil have a good reputation in the Chinese market, while corn, alfalfa, dairy products and tobacco had great potential for export to China.

Bilateral trade in goods between China and Bulgaria have quadrupled in the last 10 years, hitting $1.58 billion in the first 10 months of last year, the Ministry of Commerce said.

But Bulgaria, a newcomer to the EU, lags behind other EU members in economic development, which makes Chinese investment important.

"Bulgaria, one of the Central and Eastern European countries experiencing economic restructuring, needs China's investment for solving its current economic problems," said Cui Hongjian, director of European studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

"The nation has an urgent demand for infrastructure improvement at a time when most countries in Central and Eastern Europe are upgrading their infrastructure construction," he continued.

"Also, an improved relationship with Beijing helps promote the new member's status in the EU."

Cui also said Central and Eastern European countries, with more preferential policies and strategic locations, can provide a good launching point for Chinese companies trying to enter the European market.

Chen Yurong, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said the first presidential visit in 2014 from a nation that enjoys a decades-long friendship with China conveys China's diplomatic focus.

"The Sino-Bulgarian relationship has moved forward steadily over the years despite ups and downs in international relations, achieving progress in various fields, including the economy and trade as well as cultural exchanges," she said.

When Premier Li Keqiang attended the China-Central and Eastern Europe leaders' meeting in November, he reached a series of agreements with the leaders of 16 Central and Eastern European countries. Both sides promised to double their trade over a period of five years and discussed plans to build a new railway link to connect the nations.

Chen said while Li's visit to the region in November created a positive atmosphere for cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries, relations are expected to continue making progress this year.

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