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Chinese premier praises European Union, says free trade must be upheld

09 July 2018

"Opening up has been a key driver of China's reform agenda so we will continue to open wider to the world, including widening market access for foreign investors", he said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 6, 2018.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today said free trade and worldwide cooperation must be upheld to avoid slowing down the global economy. "It needs to be transparent".

Li expressed the expectation to consolidate China-Bulgaria traditional friendship and promote practical cooperation in various fields through this visit, so as to elevate China-Bulgaria comprehensive friendly cooperative partnership to a new level.

Officials from the EU, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were invited, and Mr Li said those organisations were welcome to jointly fund projects in the region.

"Such a project should be carried out in a transparent way and I invite third parties to participate, for example, worldwide organisations and banks", Keqiang said speaking through an interpreter during a news conference after a meeting with Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov broadcast by Bulgarian TV channel Kanal 3.

Although the USA trade war with China wasn't initially on the agenda, it was an unavoidable topic for the host country and its Chinese visitor.

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Analysts have said Li, who will travel to Germany on Sunday ahead of a wider China-EU summit in Beijing, would avoid any issues that might irk western EU governments.

He is holding bilateral meetings in Sofia with all the leaders of the eastern countries.

A consortium can be established with global banks for the construction of the high-speed railway, while other formats of cooperation are also acceptable, Keqiang said.

In September 2017, Bulgaria signed a memorandum of understanding with Greece on the development of a high-speed railway corridor linking major Greek Aegean ports with Bulgarian ports on the Danube river and the Black Sea coast.

The summit is part of China's "New Silk Road" bid to boost its influence in Europe through investments and closer economic links.

"16+1 is a format that aims to strengthen Europe", Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said in his opening remarks. "It gives more opportunities to those who joined the European Union later to catch up faster". "China and Europe are geographically far apart from each other and we have different cultures, so when Chinese business people make investments here, they need to have more knowledge of Europe". Countries taking part include European Union members Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and also non-EU states Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Chinese premier praises European Union, says free trade must be upheld