China and Hungary signed a series of investment and cooperative agreements on Tuesday, covering agriculture, telecommunications, infrastructure and finance.
Companies and governments from both countries, including the Ministry of Commerce, Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation and China Development Bank, signed seven cooperative deals in Budapest.
These deals showed that China is strengthening its presence in Central and Eastern Europe.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang (back left) talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the signing of agreements at the parliament building in Budapest on Tuesday. [Fu Jing/China Daily]
On Monday, Li wrote in a Hungarian newspaper that China will increase its investments in and imports from Hungary and the two nations' economies and industries are highly complementary.
Despite the financial crisis and global economic slowdown, the bilateral trade volume between these two countries hit a record high of more than $9 billion in 2011, up by 6.2 percent year-on-year.
China is Hungary's largest trade partner outside the European Union. Hungary is the largest destination for Chinese investments in Central and Eastern Europe.
On Tuesday, Li also met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Li's visit to Hungary sends a clear signal that the Chinese government is ready to deepen strategic cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries, and the country has received a positive response from Hungary, said Guan Chengyuan, former Chinese ambassador to the European Union.
Guan said China always attaches great importance to the role of EU member countries in global affairs.
The visit is also one of the many recent meetings between Chinese and European leaders, which contribute to increasing their understanding and trust for one another and cooperation in all areas, Guan added.
Huawei Technologies, a leading information and communication technology solutions provider, agreed to set up a logistics center in Hungary.
In 2011, the company announced it would set up a manufacturing center in Hungary.
"Hungary is the center of Europe, and it boasts a developed logistics industry and service sector," said Justin Zhang, a Huawei public relations manager for Central and Eastern Europe.
The investment benefits Hungary because the logistics center provides jobs for more than 1,000 Hungarians, he said.
Huawei is the largest Chinese company in Europe in terms of investment volume. It employs 7,000 people around Europe.
For Hungary, which is struggling with debt problems, Chinese investment could help to create more jobs and boost economic growth, experts said.
Hungary "really welcomes Chinese investment, as we help to create jobs here and stimulate the economy," said Chang Xiaowei, a sales and marketing manager for Central and Eastern Europe at ZTE.
Also on Tuesday, ZTE signed an agreement with the Hungarian government to set up an operating maintenance center in Hungary that would target consumers across Europe.
The company had some small operating maintenance centers in different parts of the Europe.
"Hungary is in the center of Europe, and has comparatively low labor and operating costs," Chang said.
The first phase of the investment was recently finished and employs more than 40 local people. In the next three years, the company will recruit 300 to 500 local residents.
As part of the seven cooperative deals, the commerce and agriculture ministries signed cooperative memorandums on cooperation of small and medium-sized enterprises and cooperation in agriculture. China Development Bank signed an agreement with the Hungarian government on a finance framework.
China Civil Engineering Construction Corp signed a memorandum worth $1 billion on building a 20-kilometer rail express linking the airport to the downtown Budapest.
Negotiations are still under way, and the two sides will try to find the proper way on funding and finance, said Liu Zhiming, company chairman.