China, Kazakhstan to sign $10b deals during Li's visit
ASTANA - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will kick off his first official visit to Kazakhstan on Sunday. The two sides are expected to sign about 30 cooperative agreements worth $10 billion during his two-day trip.
Li is scheduled to meet Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, hold the second regular meeting between the China-Kazakhstan heads of government together with his Kazakh counterpart Karim Masimov, and attend the 13th prime ministers' meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
In a signed article published by the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper on Saturday, Li said that he has expected to visit Kazakhstan for a long time, hailing it as a good neighbor of China.
"The Sino-Kazakh cooperation is developing rapidly, the volume of trade between the two countries is increasing annually by 20 percent. The interaction between China and Kazakhstan has reached a new level and extended to almost all areas of national economy. The expanding interaction brings more benefits for our countries," Li said in the article.
Kazakhstan has become China's second largest trade partner in the Commonwealth of the Independent States and its first investment destination in Eurasia, while China is the second largest trade partner and the largest export market of Kazakhstan, said Li.
He noted that China and Kazakhstan have created the most advanced bilateral cooperation mechanisms in the region. Their leaders meet regularly and there are no unresolved political issues in bilateral relations.
Congratulating Kazakhstan on its upcoming Independence Day, Li said the friendship between China and Kazakhstan has a long and profound history.
"Over 2,000 years ago, the two countries were linked by the ancient Silk Road, and now the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative enjoys profound historic connotation," he said.
"The Silk Road Economic Belt will be characterized by openness and reciprocity, and China welcomes all sides' participation in the plan and sharing of the benefits," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a Friday news briefing on Li's upcoming overseas tour.
The economic belt initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road from China via Central Asia and Russia to Europe was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Kazakhstan in September last year. Kazakhstan and many other countries have responded positively to the initiative.
Kazakhstan hopes to link its own development plan to the initiative and become a major passage in Eurasia. China and Kazakhstan have been cooperating well within the framework of the belt initiative.
There are many advantages of the China-Kazakhstan cooperation, Cheng said, highlighting a joint-venture logistics base between the two countries and urging to enhance inter-connectivity with highways, railways, ports, air routes, and oil and gas pipelines.
At the forthcoming SCO meeting, Premier Li will put forward practical measures to boost cooperation among the SCO members on security, trade, investment, finance, agriculture, infrastructure, and people-to-people exchanges, with a view to the long-term development of the bloc.
"China is very much willing to communicate with every other SCO members on its respective development strategy and the plan for regional economic cooperation," said Wang Shouwen, assistant minister of commerce, also at the briefing.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Valikhan Tuleshov, director of the Institute for Regional Development of Kazakhstan's International Academy of Business, hailed the contribution the SCO has made to regional multilateral cooperation, the Afghan peace process, and anti-terrorism.
"The SCO is now playing an indispensable role in safeguarding security in the Eurasian region," said the expert.
The SCO, founded in 2001, currently has six member states -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It also has Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers. Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners of the bloc.
After Kazakhstan, Li will travel to Serbia to attend the third leaders' meeting of China and Central and Eastern European countries and pay an official visit to the country.
In Thailand, the final leg of his tour, Li will attend the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation.