Apples grown in Poland attract visitors during an industry expo held in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province. (Photo by Zhang Yongtao/For China Daily)
China will explore more opportunities to boost trade in consumption goods, service industries and e-commerce with Central and Eastern European nations, a top official said.
"The cooperation between China and the CEE countries has deepened and widened with trade volumes growing at a steady pace," said Commerce Minister Zhong Shan during the Third Ministerial Conference of China-CEEC on promoting Trade and Economic Cooperation, in Ningbo on Thursday.
"We have seen diversified goods being imported into China such as meat, dairy products, wine and fruit. The investment is also increasing with Chinese companies spending more than $9 billion in these regions last year," he said.
Fu Ziying, the vice-minister of commerce, said the volume of imports from the 16 CEE countries will continue to grow, boosted by growing demand from Chinese consumers for a wide variety of goods.
"The country has expressed its willingness to further ease market access and enlarge imports at the Davos meeting last year and the Boao Forum this year," said Fu. "Recently the State Council decided to cut tariffs on consumption goods imports and the government will enact more measures for the same. The country will witness quality growth in imports soon."
"For example, many bistros in Beijing use goose liver imported from Slovakia for foie gras, and the Slovakian company has already set up a processing facility for the same in Inner Mongolia," he said. "We need to increase the imports of consumption goods to meet Chinese consumers' growing demand for better products."
"In the ministerial meeting many ministers stressed the need for deeper cooperation in cross-border e-commerce and tourism," Fu added.
"China and Bulgaria have maintained healthy business ties, especially in the energy and agriculture sectors," said Emil Karanikolov, the economy minister of Bulgaria. "But we don't want to stop there because we can have more possibilities. We want to attract more goods and improve the infrastructure for logistics and communication." According to Commerce Ministry data, the trading volume between China and 16 CEE countries reached $67.98 billion in 2017, up 15.9 percent year-on-year. China exported goods worth $49.4 billion and imported products worth $18.5 billion from CEE countries during the period, up 13.1 percent and 24 percent respectively, compared to 2016.
"The gap between people's growing demand for better lives and the insufficient economic development has become a major conflict in Chinese society," said Su Qingyi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Lowering the tariffs to stimulate imports of consumption goods will provide more options for Chinese consumers and benefit domestic retailers."
Meanwhile, customs officials from China and the CEE countries have announced a joint action plan from 2018 to 2020 to facilitate trade in agricultural products and other food products.
"China Customs is working on fast clearances for food and agriculture products from the CEE countries," said a spokesman from the Customs administration.
Earlier this month, Ningbo Customs launched new steps to shorten the clearance period by one to two days for goods imported from CEE countries.