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Economic cooperation already showing results


06-18-2016 12:38 BJT

Full coverage: President Xi Visits 3 Nations, Attends SCO Summit

Let's now take a closer look at Chinese investment in Serbia, and the Central and Eastern European region as a whole.

Situated in the middle of Central and Southeast Europe, the Republic of Serbia is commonly known as the crossroads of Europe.

The country is a pivotal part of China's "Belt and Road Initiative", and the center of the "16 plus 1 mechanism", which aims to facilitate cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries.

"Within the 16 plus 1 framework, Serbia is indeed a bellwether, a frontrunner in project diversity and numbers," said Li Manchang, Chinese Ambassador to Serbia.

Bilateral cooperation on infrastructure has also been gathering pace.

"Now, we have the high speed railway project from Belgrade to Budapest, and the Number 11 expressway linking Montenegro and Serbia," said Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister.

The China-led Belt and Road Initiative, and cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries, or CEEC for short, is already reaping rewards for both sides. Major contract projects like the Belgrade-Budapest Railway, Mihajlo Pupin Bridge, the E763 Motorway, and the expansion and upgrade of the Kostolac Power Plant are all making sweeping progress.

In addition, in April, China's Hebei Iron and Steel Group signed a contract over the purchase of Serbia's steel mill Smederevo creating more job opportunities in the process.

And there's plenty more projects underway. According to a spokesman for the Chinese commerce ministry, at the end of April this year, China's investment in Serbia had risen to more than 85 million US dollars. And Serbian investment in China was above 34 million US dollars. The two countries plan to lift trade and investment even more in the future.

Meanwhile, economic ties between China and CEE countries are becoming even closer. Trade volume between China and CEE countries reached 56.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, a 28 percent increase from 2010. Chinese investment in the 16 countries now exceeds 5 billion U.S. dollars. But so far eastern Europe accounts for only about 2 percent of total Chinese investment in Europe.

Aligning the 16 plus 1 mechanism with the Belt and Road Initiative is expected to provide new opportunities for China and CEE countries to deepen cooperation in production capacity, transportation, infrastructure and finance.

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