Chinese Firms eye investment in Central, Eastern Europe

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Chinese companies are mulling on investing in nuclear power, thermal power and expressway projects in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, as part of China’s enhanced economic ties with the region, an official with the ­Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said Wednesday.

Domestic enterprises have so far invested more than $5 billion in CEE countries, Xu Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Department of European Affairs with the MOFCOM, said at a press conference.

China’s trade volume with CEE countries also rose to $60.2 billion in 2014 from $52.1 billion in 2012. However, the bilateral trade value posted a 6.4 percent year-on-year decline in the first four months of this year, according to Xu.

“The sluggish trade between China and CEE countries in the first four months was mainly due to a downturn in the country’s foreign trade overall,” Chen Xin, a research fellow specializing in European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times Wednesday.

“The euro experienced a massive devaluation against the US dollar by the end of 2014 due to a stagnant European economy, which also affected the trade volume between ­China and CEE economies,” Chen said.

As the 16 CEE countries are alongside China’s “One Belt and One Road,” both sides are currently instituting a medium-term cooperation guideline, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in the infrastructure, finance and technology fields, said Xu.

MOFCOM, along with the local government in Ningbo, East China’s Zhejiang ­Pro­vince, is also setting up a trade and ­investment forum, aimed at providing an information-­sharing platform for both enterprises and authorities from China and CEE countries to talk about further cooperation, according to Xu.

As an important part of the Belgrade Guidelines for Cooperation between China and CEE countries, the first China and CEE Investment and Trade Exposition will be opened to the public on Monday, said Xu.

The Belgrade Guidelines was published in December 2014 following Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s meeting with leaders from CEE countries, presenting various areas of cooperation between China and CEE economies such as trade, investment and transport.

Chen said the partnership between China and CEE countries is not as fully developed as China’s alliance with advanced Western European economies.

“A large number of Chinese enterprises are not fully aware of the investment situation in CEE countries due to a lack of information, which is seen as a major hurdle in investing in the region,” he noted.

Boosted by China’s “One Belt and One Road” initiative, Chinese enterprises are expected to expand their business in CEE countries, Mei Xinyu, a ­research fellow with the ­Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times Wednesday.

“Compared to advanced economies in the EU, the labor cost is cheaper in CEE countries, which will help Chinese companies increase profits in investing locally,” Mei noted.

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