Serbia puts hope in Riga summit to attract more Chinese investments, News
Improved bilateral relations between Serbia and China as well as successful projects in the past raise Serbian hopes that more investments and projects will be agreed at an upcoming summit in Riga, Latvia, Dragana Mitrovic, professor of political science at the University of Belgrade, told Xinhua here Wednesday.
Mitrovic, executive director and founder of the Centre for Asian and Far East studies at the university’s faculty of political science, said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Serbia in June 2016 “opened the door for much wider and deepened cooperation in all areas of economic and social interactions between the two countries and confirmed commitments of the two countries concerning the Belt and Road initiative,” she said.
She estimated that the upcoming summit and the meeting of the 16+1 mechanism of China and Central and East European (CEE) countries would result in “more specific policies and measures as well as advancement of ongoing or planned projects and initiatives.”
SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS BRING HOPE FOR MORE CHINESE INVESTMENTS
Mitrovic said the upgrade in relations came after several successful projects were achieved or are underway — Kostolac thermal power plant revitalization, Pupin Bridge on the Danube, which was the first of such kind built predominantly by a Chinese company in Europe, and the purchase of Smederevo Steel Plant by HeSteel.
“Those examples of cooperation were mutually beneficial, especially as we look at them as the first ones supposed to open the door for more intense and coordinated cooperation,” Mitrovic pointed out.
She estimated that Serbian public and business communities, and especially local communities, were now expecting to see more direct Chinese investments in the real economy of Serbia as “China has become the second biggest global investor, and as it has strongly increased its investment in Europe, but primarily in Western Europe.”
“Strategically positioned along the Belt and Road initiative network pathway, with preferential access to the EU market and to the market of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, as well as the Turkish one, with a qualified work force, Serbia is waiting to see more direct investments coming from state and private Chinese corporations that would push its sustainable growth and create jobs,” said the professor.
Mitrovic reminded that Serbia had its own traditional advantages in agricultural production, especially wheat, corn, sunflower, soybean, sugar beet, milk and dairy products and in fields like food processing, cattle breeding, as well as desalination processes and traditionally developed seeds for sunflower and wheat.
“All these sectors welcome strategic partners from China. Foreign direct investments from Chinese companies would be mutually beneficial if oriented towards the state-owned companies that our government listed for sale,” Mitrovic said.
MANY PROJECTS TO BE DISCUSSED IN RIGA
She stressed the hope that Hebei Iron and Steel Group would invest its modern technology of light steel in Smederevo Steel Plant so it could compete in the global automobile industry.
Mitrovic added that the expected restoration of the direct flights between China and Serbia, together with a visa-free regime for short stays of Chinese and Serbian tourists, and opening a branch of Bank of China in Serbia would help foster people to people exchange, tourist industries and cooperation.
According to Mitrovic, these and other topics would be the focus of Serbia at the upcoming summit and leaders’ meeting in Riga, Latvia.
“At the Riga Summit, we could expect the continuation of deepening and expending framework of cooperation within the new agenda of ‘One goal and six priorities’ adopted in Suzhou last year that put all the elements of mid-term cooperation into a time frame of five years as it could go along with the China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and the Belt and Road initiative, as well as the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe,” she said.
She added that at the summit held last November in Suzhou, Latvia was given the responsibility of establishing a secretariat on logistics cooperation within 16+1 framework and organizing its first ministerial level meeting.
“Pushing for more infrastructure and logistic cooperation in the area of Baltic Sea is going to be seen as one of the areas the most important for the host and China. Other Latvia’s priorities are direct flights between Latvia and China and hosting of the 16+1 Business Support Organizations Conference in Riga,” Mitrovic concluded.
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