Poland eager for Belt and Road role

Updated: 2016-01-08 07:57

By Chen Yingqun(China Daily Europe)

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One of the hottest topics for Polish economists and experts in relation to China is how their country can take part in Beijing's plans to use ancient trade routes as a template for a network of trade and investment.

"China's initiative to strengthen economies along the Silk Road is very interesting to us because Poland is interested in operating in the Euro-Asia region with our trade and investment," says Slawomir Majman, president of the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency.

"We are very interested in being much more active in Pakistan, Azerbaijan ... and all the countries along the Silk Road. Why not develop arm in arm with Chinese partners?"

Majman was referring to the Belt and Road Initiative, a development strategy started by the Chinese government in 2013. It's comprised of the Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting China with Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and other regions.

Poland's central location in Europe, its deepwater port in Gdansk and major infrastructure investments in the past 20 to 25 years make Polish companies more attractive partners, says Polish Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Katarzyna Kacperczyk.

"We have a lot of Polish companies in the infrastructure sector and transportation sector. I think we could present a very competitive offer with the experience we have now, good value-added projects, which could be implemented within the Belt and Road."

Kacperczyk says that it is not only about infrastructure projects such as railways, but also about building an entire ecosystem for projects. Poland is good at building entire logistics centers, and also good at managing a multiple infrastructure projects, besides having a well-educated, professional workforce, she adds.

Poland eager for Belt and Road role

The country is rare in the European Union in that it is a large but also rapidly growing market, with annual GDP growth of between 3 and 4 percent, according to the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency. In 2014, bilateral trade between Poland and China reached $17.2 billion, according to China's customs service. China is Poland's third-biggest economic partner after Germany and Russia.

Majman says China and Poland are facing important moments in history, and the Polish people are keen on the huge transportation and other logistics projects foreseen under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Poland is a leading country in the bloc formed by China and the 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, often called the 16+1 platform, he says. But Majman says Poland has aspirations beyond bilateral trade or China-CEE trade.

Poland would like to take responsibility for a substantial part of logistics and principal duties in expanding trade between China and all large partners along the Belt and Road Initiative routes, he says.

"If we talk about Poland and 16+1, Poland is 40 percent of the economic potential of the 16, and Poland is 38 percent of the demographic potential of those 16. Poland is the only country in this region that has joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank is in the AIIB bank. So for the Chinese strategists, Poland should matter," Majman says.

Apart from infrastructure and energy, Majman says he also sees agriculture and food processing as a Belt and Road priority sector in which Poland could play a leading role.

While Chinese imports to Poland outnumber Polish exports going the other way by a factor of nine to one, he says the answer is not to reduce imports from China but to increase investment.

"We were No 5 in Europe in terms of Foreign direct investment in 2014, and in job creation, No 3. But the Chinese share in this huge investment pie (of foreign investment in Poland) is 0.02 percent," he says.

Another dimension in which China and Poland could work together is in financing capital, according to Ignacy Morawski, a chief economist and associate of private, independent Polish think tank DemosEuropa.


(China Daily European Weekly 01/08/2016 page30)