Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, right, and Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng attend a meeting of China and 16 countries of central and eastern Europe in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. The gathering focusing on transport is part of China's "New Silk Road" initiative to increase global influence through economic links and investment. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic).

China wants to deepen economic ties in 16 European nations

October 16, 2018 - 10:38 am

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — China wants to boost its cooperation with central and eastern Europe, a Chinese government minister on Tuesday told officials from the region where China already finances projects as part of its bid for more global influence.

Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng told officials from 16 European countries at a meeting in Serbia that improving economic and other relations is based on "complementary advantage" for both China and region.

"The current international situation is pretty complex, and the facts of uncertainty have increased," Li said in remarks translated into English by an official interpreter. "China is willing and prepared together with the 16 countries of the region to further deepen our cooperation.

China's interest in central and eastern Europe is linked to the "New Silk Road" plan to increase Chinese influence abroad through investments and closer economic relations.

The initiative has sparked concerns in the European Union that subsidized Chinese companies would have a market advantage without reciprocal deals for European firms, which Beijing has rejected.

In Serbia, China-backed projects include building a fast-track railway between the capital of Belgrade and Hungary's Budapest.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic praised China's role, saying it had been "very useful" for his impoverished country.

"We would never have done it on our own had it not been for that positive pressure (from China) to build something, to bridge rivers, to build new roads," Vucic said.

The meeting in Belgrade also looked at ways to solve problems such as slow cross-border traffic, a statement issued by Serbia's government said.

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