Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has described the results of his three-day visit to China as a “crucial breakthrough” in opportunities for new Chinese investments in Bulgaria and in co-operation between Sofia and Beijing.
He was speaking on January 15 2014 at the close of his visit, the first to China by a Bulgarian head of state in the past 15 years.
Off a low base, trade between Bulgaria and China has increased by 400 per cent in the past 10 years, going by official figures. It currently is worth $1.7 billion.
Plevneliev is not the only Bulgarian state official to have made the trip to China in recent months. Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the current Bulgarian Socialist Party government, was there in September 2013, while socialist Speaker of Parliament Mihail Mikov also visited Beijing.
Before attending the Summer Davos forum, Oresharski met his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, who told him that China was willing to discuss new concepts and ways of co-operation with all Central and Eastern European countries including Bulgaria, and increase mutual investments with them.
“We spoke about potential Chinese financing of infrastructural projects,” Oresharski said at the time. He said that the Chinese had showed great interest in the railway sector. The development of co-operation in agriculture and the processing industry was also emphasised, according to Oresharski, who said that Bulgaria had invited Chinese companies to invest in the processing industry based on local raw materials, mainly for the production of baby foods and dairy products.
As was to happen with Plevneliev, Oresharski invited his counterpart to visit Bulgaria, which was accepted, meaning that Sofia could expect a visit from either or both of the most senior leaders of the world’s second-largest economy.
Plevneliev, speaking to reporters after a January 15 Chinese-Bulgarian business forum in Shanghai, said, “I am convinced that we will see the concrete dimensions of the expansion of Chinese investments and business in Bulgaria very soon”.
The joint Chinese-Bulgarian business forum was attended by more than 300 representatives of 160 Chinese companies and about 40 Bulgarian companies involved in production and export of wine, the textile industry, high technology, transport, trade and tourism.
A total of seven agreements were signed at meetings between business bodies from the two countries in Beijing and Shanghai during Plevneliev’s visit to China – including on agriculture, the trade in rose oil and products, information technology and real estate.
Plevneliev said that Bulgaria should prepare and present high-quality products, and that this depended not only on business, but also on the politicians.
“Important infrastructure sites such as the tunnel under Shipka peak, hydro-electric energy plants, the Cherno More highway in which Chinese companies are ready to invest, should be prepared well by the Bulgarian administration,” Plevneliev said.
State guarantees were necessary in this regard, he said.
He discussed with Chinese leaders “an integrated and more creative” model so that Chinese partners could successfully work within the framework of EuropeanUnion rules. Plevneliev said that this should be a model that is applicable in other EU member states and there are mechanisms that Bulgaria and China can work out together.
In April a session of the Intergovernmental Joint Commission for Economic co-operation is due to be held, at which the concrete projects will be outlined, Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev told the business forum of his vision of Bulgaria as a door for goods, services and investments from China to Europe.
He said that the largest number of trans-European transport corridors pass through Bulgaria, the country has the lowest taxes in the EU, a stable economy and well-educated personnel.
“We can give you land, industrial zones, a production base for export and re-export to the European markets,” Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev also highlighted the process of economic revival in Bulgaria and the EU as an additional motivating factor for securing Chinese investments.
“Coming to Bulgaria, the Chinese business will get into a market which is growing. We have a good basis which allows you to move ahead,” he said.
Bulgaria has an ambitious programme that provides for the construction of 21 industrial zones, the President told Chinese business people.
“We offer China to build its enterprises in any of them. Bulgaria is the only EU state through which five trans-European transport corridors pass and the industrial zone in Bozhurishte and the cargo airport in Stara Zagora give access to a couple of European corridors simultaneously,”
At the start of his visit, Plevneliev noted that 2014 marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sofia and Beijing.
“Bulgaria attaches great importance to this anniversary and is developing an ambitious programme to jointly mark it, including programmes in the economy, tourism, culture and education sectors,” he said.
Plevneliev said that the opportunities for Chinese investments in Bulgaria are excellent and already existing ones are profitable and have a considerable potential for development.
“Although Bulgaria is not one of the big economies in the European Union, it certainly is one of China’s best friends in the EU and we perform a role in strengthening the strategic partnership between the EU and the People’s Republic of China,” Plevneliev said.
On January 13, Plevneliev and his Chinese counterpart president Xi Jinping attended the signing of an agreement between the Bulgaria and China on sea transport, a memorandum of understanding between the two countries’ culture ministries on the mutual establishment of cultural centres, and a formal statement on the phytosanitary requirements for the export of lucerne from Bulgaria to China between the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China.
Plevneliev and Xi Jinping also attended the signing of a memorandum on co-operation between the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria and the China Council For the Promotion of International Trade.
Noting that Oresharski and Speaker Mikov also had visited China recently, among eight top-level meetings between Bulgaria and China in the past 10 years, Plevneliev said this was no coincidence, “because it is at top level that we see the strong potential for encouraging the co-operation between the two countries.
“Our goal is to have the trade between Bulgaria and China double in the next five years,” Plevneliev said.
He noted that Bulgaria is the fourth Central and East European country that has acquired the status of a multilateral friendly co-operation and partnership with China, after Hungary, Romania and Poland.
Wan Jifey, chief of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, who hosted the business forum, said that China would put extra efforts into “ensuring a balanced development of the bilateral trade co-operation between Bulgaria and China.
“The Chinese import of Bulgarian goods will be encouraged and the Bulgarian companies will be able to more actively participate in the forums of the Council so as to boost the bilateral trade,” Wan said.
At the same time, Chinese companies will be encouraged to invest in Bulgaria, which has “a good geographic location, a relatively low cost of labour and excellent natural resources”.
(All photos: president.bg)