“China will make a major push to expand investment and trade with the Central and Eastern Europe region”, China’s new Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, told leaders of 16 Central and Eastern European nations at a summit in Bucharest Tuesday.
Li announced the establishment of a 10 billion USD credit line aimed at supporting Chinese investment in the CEE region, as well as plans to set up a secretariat for cooperation between China and CEE countries.
The goal is to double the annual value of China’s trade with the 16 CEE countries by 2015. In 2013, it stood at 45.5 billion US dollars.
Beijing is mainly interested in investing in infrastructure, renewable energy and agriculture. On Monday, the Chinese Prime Minister announced that next year China will start construction of a railway linking Hungary and Serbia.
Chinese firms are also to begin bidding for infrastructure projects – roads, railways, bridges, power stations – in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Croatia.
Other preliminary business deals were announced with Bucharest. China’s General Nuclear Power said it plans to invest in a project to add two reactors to Romania’s sole nuclear power plant owned by state-controlled Nuclearelectrica company.
Meanwhile, Romanian energy producer Complexul Energetic Oltenia signed an agreement with Huadian Corporation for a new investment at Rovinari thermal power plant.
A letter of intentwas also signed with Chinese company Sinohydro for the a hydroelectric power plant in central Transylvania.
The green light has also been given to live cattle exports for reproduction purposes from Romania to China, as well as for the export of frozen pork. Romanian cattle producers already pledged to export 14,000 cattle to China in the first year.
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta welcomed China’s interest is the CEE region. “Beijing needs long-term trustworthy political friends and commercial partners at a world level while Romania and the countries in the region have a tradition in this sense,” he said.
Apart from government leaders, around 1,000 business representatives attended the China-CEE Economic and Trade Forum in Bucharest, including 300 from China, 400 from Romania and 300 from the other CEE countries.
Analysts say China is interested in Eastern Europe’s relatively cheap labour force and looser business regulations, at a time when wages are rising in China and the national currency is strengthening.