THE HAGUE — Instead of walking up the stairs step by step from the wing, Premier Li Keqiang made one single stride to get to the rostrum to address the China-Netherlands Business Forum in The Hague on Oct 16.
A short while earlier, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made the same move.
“This can be a demonstration of the renewed China-Netherlands ties, which have taken a stride, especially for our practical cooperation,” Premier Li opened his speech with a metaphor.
Premier Li was on a three-day official visit to the Netherlands, the first by a Chinese premier to the European country in 14 years.
“I have come to the Netherlands to renew and enhance a long-running friendship. A bright future dawns only when we maintain,” Premier Li said in an article published on newspaper Nouvelles D’Europe as he arrived in the country.
The visit, which was wrapped up on Oct 16, did “renew and enhance” the China-Dutch friendship, and took bilateral relations a wide stride forward.
DEEPENING PRACTICAL COOPERATION
Speaking highly of the Sino-Dutch practical cooperation at the business forum, the Chinese premier said the two governments will create an open and fair environment for business cooperation between the two countries.
Ahead of the forum, enterprises of the two countries signed a series of agreements worth nearly $10 billion.
When meeting with Rutte on Oct 15, Premier Li said China is willing to learn from the Netherlands in managing an ageing society and establishing cooperation mechanisms between the two sides in areas of urbanization, elder care and clean energy technologies.
The Premier said China will deepen reforms and opening-up, and the country is willing to expand cooperation with the Netherlands on all fronts in the spirit of openness and inclusiveness, as well as mutual learning and mutual benefit.
Dutch companies are welcome to increase investment in China and share the dividend of China’s new round of opening up and high-quality development, Premier Li said.
The advancing of the Belt and Road Initiative, the boom of China’s new growth drivers and upgrading of the industrial structure, and its innovation-driven development strategy, would also offer more opportunities to Dutch companies, Premier Li said in the Nouvelles D’Europe article.
In his speech at the China-Netherlands Business Forum, Rutte highlighted the vigorous development of Dutch-China relations, saying that the two countries’ practical cooperation in such fields as trade and investment enjoys continuous growth.
More than 900 Dutch companies are doing businesses and making investments in China and the number is increasing, Rutte said.
When holding talks with Premier Li on Oct 15, Rutte said the Netherlands looks forward to tapping potentials for cooperation with China in areas including circular economy, urbanization and smart city, and expanding cooperation in third-party markets.
SAFEGUARDING MULTILATERALISM, FREE TRADE
During the visit, the two countries’ leaders vowed to jointly safeguard multilateralism and free trade against the backdrop of a complicated international situation with increasing uncertainties.
By doing so, positive signals will be sent to the world that China, the Netherlands as well as Europe are maintaining a rules-based international order and are committed to the facilitation and liberalization of trade and investment, Premier Li said when holding talks with Rutte.
Noting that the world is now facing the headwinds of unilateralism and protectionism, Premier Li said in the Nouvelles D’Europe article that the solution to the challenges lies in “making a stronger commitment to uphold multilateralism, free trade, economic globalization and an open world economy, and striving to sustain the hard-won global recovery with concrete and concerted efforts.”
For his part, Rutte said that the Netherlands would strengthen communication and coordination with China in multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations and the G20, adding that the two countries are jointly committed to preserving rules-based multilateralism and free trade.
On the reform of the World Trade Organization, Premier Li said during the meeting that China is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with the Netherlands on the issue.
The reform should be conducted in accordance with principles of free trade and openness, Premier Li said, adding that it should also preserve the legitimate rights of developing countries and help mitigate the North-South divide.
The reform should be non-exclusive and based upon consultations and consensus, rather than being decided by a few countries, he said, noting that it should proceed in an orderly way based on mutual understanding and mutual accommodation.
When meeting with Dutch King Willem-Alexander on Oct 15, Premier Li called on the two countries, both being open economies and major global traders, to support the rules-based international political and economic order, abide by commonly accepted norms, work together to defend multilateralism and free trade, and inject more certainties into the world.
In face of the challenges besetting today’s world, the Netherlands and China have even more reasons to enhance unity and cooperation, so as to jointly address risks caused by uncertainties and safeguard the international trade system and the world’s stability and development, said the king.
OPENING WIDER TO OUTSIDE WORLD
During the visit, Premier Li also reaffirmed China’s commitment to further opening up.
China will open its door wider to the outside world and take more steps to expand market access, Premier Li said when addressing the business forum, noting that China will treat all enterprises registered in China equally.
When meeting the press on Oct 15 with Rutte, Premier Li said “free trade is not a rejection of fair trade,” and “without free trade, there is no fair trade; while without fair trade, free trade will not gain sustainable development.”
As for multilateralism, Premier Li told reporters that it does not mean disrespect for country-to-country relations, but a promotion to the democratization of international politics.
Premier Li reiterated China’s determination to be more open to the world, saying that the country will continue to expand its markets for Dutch investments in such areas as agriculture and service.
For his part, Rutte urged all big countries to work collectively on an open, fair and multilateral trading system, saying that the Netherlands and China will make joint efforts to cope with global challenges.
“Free and fair trade is about not only how we can share the cake, it is also about how we can make the cake bigger,” Rutte said.
Meanwhile, Premier Li vowed at the business forum to further strengthen intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, saying that China by no means allows any forced transfer of the IPR.
“Any transfer of the IPR must be based on the will of the enterprises,” Premier Li said, adding that any IPR violation in China will be severely punished in accordance with the law.
Without IPR protection, innovation cooperation is impossible and expansion of investment in the Chinese market lacks foundation, Premier Li told over 400 business leaders and representatives from the two countries at the forum.