China's vice-premier starts landmark European mission
Updated: 2012-04-27 02:53
By Ding Qingfen in Moscow and Cheng Guangjin in Beijing (China Daily)
Visit covers Russia, Hungary, Belgium and EU headquarters
Business opportunities will emerge from the economic development of China and Russia and both countries will benefit from increasing prosperity and global influence, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday.
"The two countries are in total agreement on this point," Li said in a Russian newspaper article.
The vice-premier started a 10-day visit on Thursday, to promote trade and investment. He will visit Russia, Hungary, Belgium and EU headquarters in Brussels.
"We view each other's growth as opportunities because both nations share similar targets," Li said.
There is huge potential for cooperation and conditions are ripe for development, he added. Russia is the first leg of the journey and Li is expected to spend four days there.
China is Russia's largest trade partner, and the second-largest export market.
China-Russia trade surged by 42.7 percent in 2011, from a year earlier, to $79.25 billion.
This overtook the 22.5 percent growth for China's overall foreign trade during the same period. China's imports from Russia last year grew by 55.6 percent and exports to Russia were up by 31.4 percent.
Investment also surged. By the end of 2011, Russia's accumulative investment in China was $818 million, mainly in manufacturing, construction and transportation.
China's investment in Russia reached $2.91 billion, mostly in energy, agriculture, forestry, telecommunication, construction and services.
Li is expected to attend a China-Russia investment and trade promotion forum and deliver the keynote speech.
Li's visit is of "great significance" as it is the first by a Chinese leader since the Russian election in March, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said at a press conference on Thursday.
Xing Guangcheng, a researcher on Russian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that besides political ties, economic and trade cooperation will be an important focus during Li's visit.
Pursuing joint growth
As the two major members of the BRIC nations, China and Russia are devoted to growing their economies for the benefit of their people and to forge closer contacts, Li said.
China is implementing its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), transforming its growth model by putting greater emphasis on consumption.
"Both nations prioritize national development and are committed to social stability, prosperity and improving people's livelihood," Li said.
And this "unites the destiny of the two nations", he said.
Russia entered the World Trade Organization earlier this year.
The World Bank says the WTO entry could increase the size of the Russian economy by 3.3 percent in the medium term and 11 percent in the long term.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister who will be sworn in as president in May, promised to implement structural reforms to modernize the economy and increase efficiency.
Russia's per capita GDP should rise to $35,000 from a little over $19,000 over the next decade, making it one of the world's top five economies, Putin said. It is currently the 11th-largest economy.
But Putin emphasized that such an ambitious goal cannot be achieved only through depending on the exports of raw materials, the engine of Russian economy over the past decade.
"China welcomes Russian investment and is opening markets wider to Russian companies," said Xu Xianping, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Putin is expected to visit China in June and attend the Beijing Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, after he takes office in May.
"Li's visit is a good chance to carry forward China-Russia relations and promote the implementation of agreements that have been reached between the two countries' leaders," Xing said.
It will also "pave the way for Putin's visit to China, which the Chinese government attaches great importance to".
Apart from meeting Russian leaders, Li will also meet with people from various backgrounds and sectors.
Li's trip follows closely high-level visits by government leaders to a number of European countries.
Premier Wen Jiabao is concluding a European trip that took him to Iceland, Germany, Sweden and Poland.
Bert De Graeve, chief executive officer NV Bekaert SA and chairman of the Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce, expects Li's visit to Belgium will "contribute to a further improvement of the excellent longstanding relationship" between Belgium and China.
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Fu Jing in Brussels contributed to the story.