Officials and experts foresee growing China-EU cooperation ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Europe a year ago, noting both sides could strengthen ties in fields such as investment and trade.
Xi visited the Chinese-owned Volvo manufacturing factory in Ghent in April last year when the plant produced its 300,000th car to be exported to China.
“Employees showed more confidence about their future after Chinese capital was injected into the company. Their worries about layoffs have been eased,” Mark De Mey, PR manager for Volvo in Ghent, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“After discussing with Chinese stakeholders, Volvo has set an ambitious strategy and target to double production by 2020 to 800, 000 cars globally,” De Mey added.
According to official figures, non-financial sector investment from China to the EU in the first two months of 2015 was 9.5 times more than the same period in 2014.
Commenting on investment from China, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said increasing Chinese investment in Europe is welcome.
“Chinese investors in Europe have their own experience and knowledge. They are also dramatically increasing their activities abroad – albeit from a low base. The European economy badly needs investment to drive our recovery from the crisis,” Malmstrom said.
Apart from direct investment, officials from the EU and member states are trying to engage in more economic activities with Chinese partners through investment.
A case in point – more than 10 European countries recently decided to join the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and thereby broaden cooperation beyond their own markets.
Together with AIIB, the “Belt and Road” initiative of China also sparked interest from the EU, which has its own ambitious investment strategy in upcoming years.
Addressing the Brussels-based think-tank European Policy Centre.
Vice-President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen said the EU hoped to attract Chinese investments of up to 315 billion euros ($339.3 billion) into an EU infrastructure investment plan.
According to EU sources, its investment strategy is seeking to cooperate with the “Belt and Road” initiative in specific projects.
Katainen said Chinese investment was “very welcome,” especially to fill in the gaps in long-term infrastructure needs in EU member states. This is particularly the case in eastern and central European countries and in Balkan countries, for which China is ready to allocate investment funds from the AIIB and the Silk Road Fund.
Some experts see this as a good sign for EU-China economic cooperation, also taking into account other positive developments such as the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda and negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement hopefully to be concluded by 2015.
Duncan Freeman, research fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said the EU needs as much investment as China could offer, although China will not be able or willing to cover all the possible investment requirements.
According to Freeman, “there is likely to be more interest from member states and business sectors that see a real benefit from the initiative.”
“Rather than seeking a broad framework at the EU level, it may be more practical to work on a project-by-project basis,” he added.
Source : China Daily | April 2, 2015