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Hu in Croatia for high-level talks
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President Hu Jintao arrived in Croatia's capital, Zagreb, on Friday for a state visit to the nation in southeastern Europe.

He is scheduled to hold talks with Croatian President Stjepan Mesic and President of Parliament Luka Bebic.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) and Croatia's President Stjepan Mesic pose for a photograph for the media at Zagreb's Pleso airport June 19, 2009. Hu is on a two-day official visit to Croatia.

Hu and his entourage plan to wind up the week-long visit to Russia, Slovakia and Croatia on Saturday evening.

Before flying to Croatia, Hu had breakfast with Chinese and Slovak businesspeople in Bratislava, Slovakia, where he noted that China is calling for the development of free trade and opposing protectionism in joint efforts to deepen its economic and trade relations, not only with Slovakia but with Europe as a whole.

He said China hopes to advance sustained trade development with Slovakia and Europe, especially in times of global financial crisis.

"It is all countries' responsibility to push for the world economy to recover with the determination that we should cooperate and tide over the crisis together," Hu said.

The global economic slowdown has affected trade between the two countries.

Xu Buyang, board chairman of the China Buyang Group, said his company's business in Central and Eastern Europe -- it sells doors, including burglarproof, garage and armored models -- has dropped by nearly 60 percent.

Hu encouraged small- and medium-sized firms from both countries to explore more practical areas of cooperation to create new engines to drive economic growth.

He said the Chinese government supports its businesses in actively participating in infrastructure construction for energy, highways, railways and telecommunications in Slovakia and encourages them to partner with Slovak businesses to create new trade growth engines in research and development for new energy, labor and engineering.

And he applauded the signing of new deals on Friday between Chinese and Slovak businesses in the areas of agricultural products processing, manufacturing of LCDs and new energy, saying Slovakia has become China's important economic and trade partner in Central and Eastern Europe.

He urged both countries to enhance services for businesses and boost communications.

Prior to Hu's speech, Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic called for Slovak businesses to recognize the potential of the massive market in China, lamenting the fact that Slovakia's export to China accounts for a fraction of its total exports.

Gasparovic encouraged more Chinese to visit Slovakia.

According to local Chinese firms, Slovakia has been a springboard for them to expand not only in Europe, but the Middle East and Africa.

Lenovo set up a laptop center in Slovakia three years ago, making use of the country's geographic location, relatively inexpensive labor and good investment environment.

Today, the center employs 600 highly skilled staff, 90 percent of whom are Slovak, Yang Yuanqing, chief executive officer of Lenovo, said on Friday at the breakfast.

While in Bratislava, Hu also met with Slovak Parliament Speaker Pavol Paska on Friday, pledging to strengthen friendly cooperation with the central and eastern European country.

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