Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a five-point proposal in Budapest Saturday to enhance China's cooperation with countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
When delivering a speech at the China-Central and East European Countries Economic and Trade Forum, Wen said China cherished its longstanding and deep friendship with the countries in the region.
"Over the past several decades, although the international situation and the domestic situations of both sides have undergone big changes, we have always enjoyed mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual understanding and mutual support," Wen said.
He said cooperation in various fields between the two sides had made tremendous progress, referring to the rapid growth of two-way trade, the burgeoning of mutual investment, the expansion of cooperation areas and the improvement of cooperation mechanisms.
China encouraged its companies to "go global" and saw Central and Eastern Europe as a strategic priority, the Chinese leader said, adding that his current visit was "both a journey of friendship and a journey of cooperation."
To jointly develop new ways of cooperation and push business relationship to a higher level, Wen made the following proposal:
Firstly, he said the two sides should boost bilateral trade.
"Currently, trade between us takes up less than 4 percent in our respective total foreign trade and less than 10 percent in China-EU trade," he said.
Noting that "much potential remains to be tapped," the Chinese premier called on both sides to open markets wider to each other, reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers, set up cooperation in customs, quality inspection, logistics, and personal entry and exit.
Wen promised to facilitate access to the Chinese market for competitive products from Central and East European countries by holding more commodity fairs.
Secondly, Wen called for both sides to promote two-way investment.
"We must work intensively to improve the laws and regulations on two-way investment, remove investment barriers of various kinds, actively engage in diversified forms of investment promotion activities, and strive for early substantive growth in two-way investment," Wen said.
He also said the two sides should enhance investment cooperation in such areas as telecommunications, new energy and agriculture, and encourage joint establishment of industrial parks and high-tech development zones.
With China supporting competitive Chinese enterprises to invest in Central and East European countries, it also hoped these countries could relax restrictions concerning market access and technical standards as appropriate, and provide policy support for Chinese investment, Wen said.
Thirdly, both sides should enhance infrastructure construction cooperation, the Chinese premier said.
Given the Chinese enterprises' strength in infrastructure construction, and the big markets in Central and East European countries, there was a lot the two sides could do together in this field, Wen said.
"We support Chinese enterprises in undertaking infrastructure projects in Central and East European countries through PPP (Public-Private Partnership), BOT (build-operate-transfer) and other customary formats in Europe," he said.
"The Zemun Bridge in Serbia, which will soon be built, will become the first 'business card' of Chinese enterprises to access markets in Central and East European countries," Wen said, adding: "China is willing to accelerate the construction of the Eurasia Railway and will support enterprises in establishing a smooth logistic network to facilitate the flow of goods and personnel between the two sides."
Fourthly, the two sides should deepen fiscal and financial cooperation, which would help lift bilateral business relations to a higher level, the Chinese premier said.
"We support financial enterprises of both sides in setting up branches in each other's countries and increasing the scale of cross-border trade settlement in RMB (the Chinese yuan)," Wen said.
China was exploring the possibility of setting up a cooperation fund between the two sides, which would provide strong support for their economic cooperation and trade, Wen said.
He added, "We support the economic and financial adjustment measures adopted by the Central and East European countries, and have confidence in the future of their financial markets."
And fifthly, Wen said he hoped the two sides could expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
Pointing out that both sides should increase exchanges in such areas as education, culture, health, sports, tourism and science, Wen said they also needed to enhance in particular the mutual understanding and friendship between the young people of the two sides.
"China supports exchanges between institutions of higher learning of the two sides and hopes to see more students from Central and East European countries in China," Wen added.
During his speech, Wen admitted the scale of trade and investment between the two sides remained "relatively modest." "But given the high economic complementarities, I see great potential and broad prospects for our business ties," he said.
Wen said he was confident that, with a pioneering spirit, business people of the two sides would take the forum as a new starting point to work concertedly to bring in a new phase in bilateral economic cooperation and trade.
More than 600 senior government officials and business representatives from China and Central and East European countries attended the forum, which was hosted by the the Hungarian Ministry of National Development.
The event came prior to Wen's meetings with Hungarian President Pal Schmitt and Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Laszlo Kover.
Hungary was the first leg of Wen's ongoing three-nation Europe tour, which would also take him to Britain and Germany.