China, Belgium seek stronger cooperation as Belgian PM visits

China and Belgium agreed on Monday to expand cooperation in such areas as investment, new energy and in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In his meeting with visiting Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on both sides to properly handle issues regarding respective core interests and major concerns, and expand cooperation in such key areas as manufacturing, new energy, environmental protection and services.

The two countries should explore cooperation in high-end technology and industries with high added value, Xi said, urging Belgium to take opportunities provided by the Belt and Road Initiative to boost development of the China-Europe and Asia-Europe logistics industry and cross-border e-commerce.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

"China appreciates and welcomes Belgium's willingness to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and wishes that Belgium becomes an AIIB member country as soon as possible," Xi said.

Xi said that he hoped Belgium would urge the European Union to fulfill its obligations under Article 15 of the Protocol on China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in due time.

WTO obligations require that the EU ends its "surrogate country system" by Dec. 11, 2016, under which costs of production in a third country are used to calculate the value of products from non-market economies.

Michel is on an official visit to China from Sunday to Tuesday, as the two countries celebrate the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.

He recalled Xi's state visit to Belgium in 2014 and Belgian King Philippe's return visit last year, vowing to cement cooperation with China in diversified areas, including investment, innovation, aviation, new energy and infrastructure.

Belgium is committed to boosting EU-China ties featuring mutual trust and mutual benefit, he added.

The two countries signed a series of cooperation agreements on Monday afternoon including two treaties on extradition and criminal transfer, and a letter of intent on opening flights between Shanghai and Brussels.

In the talks with Michel, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Brussels to relax restrictions on high-tech exports to China, and called for stronger bilateral cooperation in technological innovation, advanced manufacturing and security.

He hoped Belgium would promote China-EU negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement and a feasibility study on a China-EU Free Trade Area, to send a signal to jointly fight against trade protectionism and boost stable growth of two-way trade.

Michel said that Belgium will stick to free trade and is committed to expanding cooperation with China in areas including agriculture, information and communication, finance and insurance.

Brussels is ready to deal with issues related to the EU's WTO obligations in a positive and pragmatic manner, Michel said, vowing to facilitate negotiations on the EU-China investment agreement.

China's top legislator Zhang Dejiang also met with Michel, earlier on Monday. Zhang said the Chinese National People's Congress hopes to beef up exchanges and cooperation with the Belgian federal parliament, enhance dialogues on issues such as democracy, rule of law and ecological conservation, and ratify agreements on judicial cooperation.

Pledging to enhance cooperation with China in politics, diplomacy, economy and culture, Michel said that his China trip would help to strengthen bilateral trust and friendship.

Source: Xinhua