Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Berlin, Germany on Sunday for the fifth round of China-Germany intergovernmental consultations and an official visit to the European country. (Photo: Xinhua)
China is expanding trade ties with Europe by increasing imports of agriculture goods in a move that experts say won't completely offset pressures from the trade war with the US but could deliver a message that China is continuing to further open its economy.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday wrapped up his trip to Bulgaria with a clear message; China will further consolidate relations with European countries and safeguard the multilateral trade regime.
During his visit to Bulgaria's capital Sofia, Li attended the seventh leaders' meeting of China and 16 Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs), and held bilateral meetings with CEEC leaders, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Li told CEEC leaders that China will increase imports of high quality agriculture goods from CEECs, including meat, dairy products, honey and wine, to serve the increasingly diversified demands of Chinese consumers, the General Administration of Customs said on its Weibo account on Monday.
Even if there were not a trade war with the US, China would surely promote trade in agricultural products with CEECs, Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Monday.
China has to increase agricultural imports due to its large population, limited arable land and the need to protect the environment, said Bai.
The China-Europe Railway carries many Chinese goods to Europe but often returns to China with few products, noted Bai. He predicts the trains will soon be making the return trip filled with agriculture products.
The Chinese premier and his CEEC counterparts agreed to further boost bilateral and 16+1 cooperation and, in the face of gathering protectionist clouds, reiterated their shared commitment to building an open world economy and making economic globalization more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable, Xinhua reported.
However, expanding ties with CEECs cannot completely offset the negative impact of the trade war with the US, said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China. "Agricultural products from CEECs are plentiful, but they cannot replace soybean imports from the US, and CEECs' market is too small to replace the amount of Chinese goods usually sold in the US."
Promoting trade ties with CEECs is mainly symbolic, said Wang, noting that it is designed "to deliver a message that China will keep its promise to reduce its trade surplus with other partners and boost opening-up."
After his meetings in Sofia, the Chinese Premier arrived in Berlin Sunday for the fifth round of China-Germany intergovernmental consultations and an official visit to the European country. Upon his arrival, Li noted that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited China in May, have held exchange visits less than half a year after the two countries' new cabinets took office in March, Xinhua reported.
A practical measure to overcome trade war pressures is to cooperate with Germany on infrastructure projects in CEECs, Wang noted. "CEECs' infrastructure projects once heavily relied on the EU, but due to the shortage of financial support and the long durations of those projects, the CEECs really want China to participate."
But laws and regulations in the EU make it difficult for Chinese companies during the tendering process, so China can invite the participation of Germany to effectively solve the problem, Wang said.
Against the backdrop of complex and changing international circumstances, the two new governments should use their first comprehensive meeting to build consensus, deepen cooperation and pursue development, Li said upon his arrival in Germany, Xinhua reported.
Germany and the EU are also facing pressure from the trade war. The EU has already hit US products with retaliatory tariffs worth €2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) in response to Donald Trump's restrictions on steel and aluminum imports, and is drawing up an €18b hit list in response to the US president's threat to target the auto sector, Financial Times reported.