China Seeks More Trade with Eastern Europe

By Eddy, Melissa | International Herald Tribune, April 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

China Seeks More Trade with Eastern Europe


Eddy, Melissa, International Herald Tribune


Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said China wanted to double trade with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to $100 billion a year by 2015.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Thursday that China wanted to double trade with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to $100 billion a year by 2015, and pledged billions in loans to help promote investment in the region.

Mr. Wen made the announcement at a gathering in Warsaw that brought together business and political leaders of countries stretching from the Baltics to the Balkans that are eager to do business with China, even as they struggle to overcome stereotypes still held by many in the region who associate the Chinese as makers of inexpensive toys and designer knock-offs.

Infrastructure, high technology and green technology are target areas for growth, Mr. Wen said, announcing that Beijing would set up a $10 billion line of credit to support investment in these specific industries. He also pledged an additional $500 million in funds to be made available to Chinese companies seeking to make first-stage investment in the region.

Mr. Wen's visit to Poland was the first by a Chinese prime minister since 1987. He met with the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, and the leaders of 15 other countries from the region to pledge China's support for economic development in the area. He began his tour in Iceland on Friday and visited Germany and Sweden before arriving in Poland, the final stop on his European tour.

China is already investing in the production of chemicals, electronics and other products in the region, which is attractive because of labor costs lower than those in Western Europe; a young, highly skilled work force; and access to the European Union's expansive single market.

Yet frustrations and stereotypes remain. Last year a Chinese consortium backed out of a Polish government contract to build a 50- kilometer, or 31-mile, stretch of highway connecting Warsaw with Berlin. The China Overseas Engineering Group Co., or Covec, had won the contract by bidding about 1.3 billion zlotys, or $478 million, but was unable to complete the project at that cost and dropped the contract.

Wan Jifei, the president for China's Council for the Promotion of International Trade, who traveled with Mr. Wen in his delegation, said that such problems were to be expected in the early stages of development and that deepened ties would help reduce such misunderstandings over time.

Infrastructure is one of the sectors where the Chinese see an enormous potential for growth, especially in Poland, which is particularly attractive as a stable and growing economy. …

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