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China, Serbia to sign visa-free travel deal in Riga

Reporter: Guy Henderson 丨 CCTV.com

11-07-2016 04:39 BJT

Full coverage: Premier Li Visits Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Russia

Also at the leaders' meeting in Riga, China and Serbia have announced their reciprocal visa-free policies. That makes Serbia the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to waive the visa requirement for Chinese.

Zhou Haiying expects good news for his business out of Latvia this weekend.

A Chinese national, Zhou is Serbia’s largest private investor — he’s pumped $33 million into this shopping center in the capital Belgrade and believes a formal sign-off on a deal with China for 30 days of visa-free travel could mean more Chinese clients coming here to fill his lots.

“I believe this is very good news for people in both countries — especially for businessmen. As you know, internet communications are now very developed. But the function of meeting and visiting face-to-face is irreplaceable,” Zhou said.

An agreement to open direct flights from Beijing was also recently approved.

That’s an exciting prospect for Serbia’s relatively low-key tourism industry.

"Tourists from China are very numerous and they are coming to Europe in huge numbers. But in Serbia, we still don’t have enough tourists from China. And we believe we have a lot to offer to Chinese tourists. We believe this is a destination they’re about to discover — and when they discover it, it will help us greatly," said Marija Labovic, tourist organization of Serbia.

Cooperation doesn’t stop there — Serbia’s National Bank has granted a license to Bank of China to open a branch here, too.

The apparent hope: to increase investment to the whole region — and complement the European Union’s own development plans.

As Eastern and Central European leaders meet with China’s Premier Li Keqiang in the Latvian capital Riga — those investments are expected to be a focus.

At the moment Chinese investment in eastern and central Europe makes up just 10% or so of the total inflow for the continent. Western Europe still enjoys the lion’s share. That is changing — partly through summits like this. And visa-free travel — officials here hope — could help speed up that increase.

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