Chinese premier to forge closer Europe ties in Italy trip
ROME - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming trip to Italy, China's friendly European partner and EU's current rotating chair, is widely expected to promote China-EU trade and economic ties and improve their teamwork to address global challenges.
While in Italy, Li will also visit the headquarters of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and attend the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit.
As Italy and China celebrate the first decade of their comprehensive strategic partnership this year, Li will hold talks with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President Giorgio Napolitano and other Italian leaders.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao said earlier that during Li's visit, China and Italy will issue a joint declaration and sign about 20 agreements. The two countries will also promote investment and cooperation between their small and medium-sized enterprises.
"Italy is an important member of the EU, with which China can find a lot of areas to conduct cooperation," said Cui Hongjian, director of the Department for European Studies of the China Institute of International Studies.
Located at a key geographic hinge, Italy might help China expand its cooperation with other South European countries, which makes the Sino-Italian ties significant to the two countries and the region, he said.
Li's visit also follows Italian Prime Minister Renzi's China tour in June, when the two governments issued a three-year action plan covering cooperation in areas of trade, industries, investment, finance, tourism and technological innovation.
According to the plan, the two countries will promote growth of bilateral goods and service trade and realize trade balance by increasing Italian exports to China.
To that end, the two sides will enhance cooperation in environmental protection, energy, agricultural products and processing, food security, urbanization, medicine, health and aviation.
Wang Yiwei, a researcher at Renmin University of China, said that China provides an ideal market for Italy's mature manufacturing sector, while the latter's demand for investment offers opportunities to China.
"China is exploring new cooperation potentials with South Europe by strengthening investment and trade links," Wang said.
On Oct. 15, the eve of World Food Day, Li is scheduled to visit the FAO headquarters for the first time, which shows China has attached great importance to international cooperation in non-conventional security fields.
FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said in June that proper agricultural policies, reforms and impressive increases in domestic food production helped China meet the first Millennium Development Goal.
It has been widely accepted that China's achievement in food security and poverty reduction has made huge contribution to global efforts in these regards.
As a focus of Li's European tour, the 10th ASEM summit in Milan from Oct. 16 to 17 will see more efforts by China to push for deeper cooperation and enhanced mutual trust between Asia and Europe.
This will be the first time for Li to attend the ASEM summit since he took office.
During his meeting with Renzi in June, Li said he hoped the summit would promote Asia-Europe political, economic, trade and cultural cooperation, strengthen communication and make positive progress toward an Asia-Europe market.
It will also further drive home China's conceptions of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which were hailed by Renzi as good opportunities to enhance West-East cultural and political links.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said earlier that China hopes Asia and Europe will in the summit strengthen strategic mutual trust and reach agreement on climate change, terrorism, epidemic diseases and other global issues.
ASEM, first launched in 1996, is an important venue for dialogues between Asia and Europe.
"Chinese leaders always offer great support for ASEM," said Cui with the China Institute of International Studies.
Italy will be the last stop of Li's three-leg Europe tour, which already took him to Germany and Russia.