China seeks to expand imports from CEE

Updated: 2014-06-09 07:28

By Wei Tian in Ningbo, Zhejiang province (China Daily)

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China will continue to seek balanced trade with central and eastern European countries by expanding imports and promoting investment in the region, China's top trade official told his counterparts on Sunday.

"We will encourage Chinese enterprises to import agricultural and animal products, especially food products, from CEE countries, and help them promote their brand recognition in China," said Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng.

"Imports of these products are in line with China's domestic demand," Gao said at the Ministerial Conference of China and Central and Eastern European Countries on Promoting Trade and Economic Cooperation, held in Ningbo.

Trade officials from 16 CEE countries including Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary have brought 180 enterprises to the three-day event, with products such as milk, honey, canned food and cosmetics.

Trade volume between China and CEE countries has grown more than fivefold since 2003, and Gao said the number could exceed $60 billion by the end of this year, up from $55.1 billion in 2013.

The Ningbo fair also marks the latest step in reversing the trade imbalance between the two sides. Fox example, in 2013 China exported $12.6 billion worth of goods to Poland - China's largest trade partner of the 16 countries - but imported just $2.2 billion from the country.

Both sides have been working to reverse the imbalance, and there have been some improvements. In the first four months of this year, China's imports from central and eastern European countries surged by 38.5 percent.

"However, in a broader sense, trade balance is achieved by promoting both good trade and investment exchange," Gao said.

The Chinese government will encourage more companies to invest in the processing and production sectors in CEE countries, which could help promote their exports to China and other countries, Gao said.

Cooperation between China and CEE countries will also highlight infrastructure projects such as high-speed railway, nuclear power and ports, according to Gao.

Sunday's event follows a meeting last November between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and leaders of CEE countries in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, which saw the signing of a cooperation guideline to boost trade and investment exchanges between China and CEE countries.

Trade promotion organizations from China and CEE countries agreed on Sunday to meet in Ningbo every three years and establish a regular mechanism to strengthen economic ties.

"China is getting richer and richer, and we see possibilities for entering the upper-class market with our quality goods and moderate prices," said Mantas Nocius, managing director of Enterprise Lithuania, a trade promotion organization owned by the Lithuanian government.

"We know that we have to try hard, because so far most successful European products in the Chinese market are luxury products, and we're entering in a different market segment.

"I went to local supermarkets, and they seem to be even better than most European markets," he said.

"We're active in the European and Russian markets, but we need to know how to deal with cultural differences in such a huge market like China."