South Croatia’s city Dubrovnik has been known as a tourist paradise, but its historical status will be more prominent from now on.
The eighth China-CEEC leaders’ meeting was held at Dubrovnik on April 12. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic noted that Dubrovnik pioneered global trade with other countries and regions from the 14th to the 19th centuries, linking the East and the West.
Premier Li Keqiang added that their gathering in Dubrovnik, a symbol of free trade, represents the determination to safeguard free trade and promote cooperation.
Later on April 12, Premier Li and Plenkovic met the press. The Premier said that faced with current complicated international situations, all sides should work to safeguard multilateralism and free trade. As a cross-regional cooperation platform, the “16+1” cooperation now serves as an important part of and a beneficial supplement to China-EU cooperation, and China and Central and Eastern European Countries, or CEECs, should intensify efforts to develop it into a model of trans-regional cooperation platform.
Business and trade come first
The Business Forum of CEEC and China was held earlier than the leaders’ meeting, which shows business and trade are prioritized in the “16+1” cooperation, Premier Li said at the opening ceremony of the 9th Business Forum of CEEC and China.
According to statistics, last year trade volume between China and CEEC grew by 21 percent against the global trend, a record high. And in recent years, CEECs’ exports to China increased about five times. Closer cooperation between the two sides can help narrow the gap with developed countries.
Plenkovic said the “16+1”cooperation strictly follows EU laws and regulations and brings new opportunities to countries involved and effectively responds to negative effects of global crises — that’s why more and more countries are paying attention to it.
Considering the great achievements that “16+1”cooperation has yielded, the meeting released the Dubrovnik Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, showing that the two sides will further cooperate in various fields, including the financial sector, education, and sports.
After the opening ceremony, Premier Li and Plenkovic unveiled the coordination website for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), visited exhibitions on education cooperation, and attended a matching event for China-CEEC SMEs.
The Premier said SMEs in China and CEECs are vigorous and dynamic and China has adopted a series of measures to unleash market vitality, with the number of market entities reaching over 100 million households, most of which are SMEs.
The Premier expressed hope that SMEs from both sides can work together to create a prosperous tomorrow for China and CEECs.
Building “16+1” into a model of trans-regional cooperation
Premier Li said he hopes that China and CEECs can work together to build the “16+1” into a model of trans-regional multilateral cooperation.
“China and Central and East European countries share a similar development level. We can make use of our complementary advantages,” he said during a meeting with the press.
In today’s world, there are global trade organizations based on WTO rules, bilateral free trade zones and trans-regional multilateral cooperation platforms joined by many countries.
“The thriving of ‘16+1’ cooperation proves that we share the belief of free trade based on WTO rules and will promote free trade through various means and the cooperation of global economy,” the Premier said.
The Premier’s ideas were echoed by the leaders of CEECs. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the progress of many cooperation projects between China and CEECs proves that “16+1” cooperation is a significant trans-regional cooperation platform, which can not only improve the ties between CEECs and China, but also become a positive complement to the Europe-China relationship.
The “16+1” cooperation has witnessed new progress each year, which brings development opportunities for CEECs and also has contributed to the cooperation and relationship between China and the EU, said Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis.
“16+1” is crucial in implementing China-EU joint statement
At the eighth China-CEEC leaders’ meeting, Premier Li reconfirmed China’s support of European integration and the unity and prosperity of European Union.
“The ‘16+1’ cooperation is an integral part and positive supplement to China-EU cooperation. The ideas in China-EU joint statement and the Dubrovnik Guidelines are consistent. Promoting ‘16+1’ cooperation is a crucial step in implementing China-EU joint statement,” the Premier said.
The joint statement clearly stated that both sides are willing to offer wider, more convenient and non-discriminatory market access. Likewise, China and CEECs also would like to treat each other’s enterprises with equality and non-discrimination, he said.
Many leaders of CEECs have spoke highly of the China-EU joint statement issued before the leaders’ meeting of China and CEECs.
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said Romania, as the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, appreciates highly the China-EU joint statement, which is able to further promote the China-EU relationship.
Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec said the joint statement stressed the partnership between China and the EU, indicating the two economies are willing to strengthen cooperation for mutual benefits and win-win results.
There is a suggestion that the name “16+1” should be replaced by “17+1” because Greece was allowed to join the “16+1 cooperation” at the final stage of the meeting.
Premier Li commented that whether it is “16+1” or “17+1”, if called in number, “16” or “17” is placed before “1”, and, if called in Chinese, it is “China-CEECs”, which means “China” is placed before “CEECs”.
“It shows that we respect CEECs and also respect ourselves. It is because of the mutual respect and equal treatment that makes the improvement both in quality and quantity of China-CEECs cooperation,” Premier Li said.