Netherlands hopeful about Xi's European tour

Updated: 2014-03-22 00:15

By ZHAO SHENGNAN and HE LIU (China Daily)

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At 'very good moment', Dutch envoy sees wide range of opportunities

China and the Netherlands will sign a slew of agreements during President Xi Jinping's visit to the country, which will help more Dutch enterprises become better involved in China's economic transformation, the Dutch ambassador to China said.

The enormous Chinese market is "very attractive for foreign companies", Aart Jacobi told China Daily.

China's reform also needs to involve more foreign companies with the latest technology and know-how, to help its companies become more competitive, he said.

Jacobi made the remarks ahead of Xi kicking off his Europe tour on Saturday and participating in the Nuclear Security Summit next week in The Hague. It will be the first visit by a Chinese president to the Netherlands.

Calling the visit "instrumental", Jacobi said the deals will cover dairy, clean energy and cultural cooperation, though the topics won't be confined to these.

He cited the Netherlands' traditionally strong financial sector, a creative sector that can contribute to the new type of urbanization stressed by Beijing, as well as its health care sector, as both countries have aging populations.

"For China, one of the steps to change from the old model to a new model is to internationalize its economy so Chinese companies can broadly engage in mergers and acquisitions, investments and green-field operations, to become more international and more competitive," Jacobi said.

"We always try to attract as many foreign companies as possible," he said, calling for potential investors to contact the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, which can "pave the way for you to the Netherlands".

China is the second largest source of foreign investment in the Netherlands. The European Union is China's largest trade partner, and the Netherlands is China's second-largest trade partner in the bloc, with a volume of 40 billion euros ($55 billion) in 2012.

Jacobi said the Netherlands, Europe's logistics hub, can serve as a gateway for China to Europe.

About 40 percent of Chinese exports to Western Europe enter via Rotterdam, Europe's largest seaport. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the main air-freight hubs for Chinese exports to Europe.

The Netherlands is "much in favor of" the EU-China investment agreement, which had its first round of talks in January, especially since it helps improve market access and removes obstacles to investments, the ambassador said.

The negotiation process is expected to take some time, he added.

"It's not strange to see disputes between two trading partners that are this big," he said in discussing the trade friction that emerged between China and the EU last year, which included a dispute over the price of solar panels sold by China.

"The Netherlands is a firm supporter of free trade. We live by trade and therefore, in case of trade disputes, the preferred option is always dialogue. We do our best to move things in the right direction," he said.

China and the Netherlands have had a pragmatic and open relationship as well as intensive contacts with each other. "It is working to the benefit of both," Jacobi said.

According to the ambassador, the Dutch embassy in China improved its services by working with a visa application center last year. Measures that included cutting a waiting list contributed "tremendously" to an 18 percent increase in Chinese tourists coming to his country. But he expects even more from China, the world's largest source of tourists.

"We are at a very good moment in our bilateral relations," Jacobi said.

"But we should not sit back and consider it to be enough. There is always much to do to move the relations to a next higher level."

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