China and Slovenia – Building a firm foundation for economic cooperation

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Interview with H.E. YE Hao, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Slovenia

Q What were the new measures put forward at this year’s 16+1 Summit? How are they tailored to the specifics of small economies such as Slovenia, which also has a very different cultural and historical background than that of PR China?

A The 16+1 cooperation mechanism between 16 Central and European Countries and China, was initiated in 2012. Since then, 16+1 annual summits have been held in Warsaw, Bucharest, Belgrade and this time, in China. A landscape of comprehensive, wide-ranging and multilevel cooperation among the 16+1 countries was revealed, while various measures to boost trade, investment, financing, infrastructure cooperation have been carried out step by step. This November, the prime ministers from the 16+1 countries got together in Suzhou City, a well-known historical city in China, with the theme of "New Beginning, New Fields, New Vision". ‘The Medium-Term Agenda’ and ’The Suzhou Guideline’ for cooperation between the 16+1 countries were issued at the summit. The Agenda describes the blueprint for cooperative development over the next five years, while the Guideline specifies the cooperative roadmap.

Cultural diversity has a key role in today’s economic globalisation. The 16+1 mechanism, as well as the initiative to jointly build the "One Belt One Road", embraces this trend. It is an open process of cooperation which can be highly flexible, instead of seeking conformity. For cooperation between Slovenia and China, it is necessary to align our mechanism with the Slovenia 2015-2020 Internationalisation Program. China and Slovenia enjoy a smooth development of the bilateral relations, high complementarity in economic development and broad prospects in practical cooperation. China is willing to actively participate in Slovenia’s projects at the Port of Koper and railway reconstruction, and carry out cooperation with Slovenia in fields such as trade parks, logistics, equipment manufacturing and transportation infrastructure based on China’s initiative of "cooperation in three port areas" of the Adriatic Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea. China supports its enterprises to participate in the privatisation of some state-owned enterprises in Slovenia and launch cooperation with Slovenia in fields such as new energy, high and new technology, biological pharmacy and environmental protection. China is willing to expand cooperation in agriculture, forestry and tourism and enhance local exchanges with Slovenia.

China is willing to actively participate in Slovenia’s projects at the Port of Koper and railway reconstruction.

Q What activities did you conduct in Slovenia to support bilateral economic cooperation since you have been in office and what are their expected effects? What concrete progress has been made at the bilateral level in this time? What expectations does PR China have from Slovenia’s leaders on this front?

A Since I took my new post here in this March, I have devoted myself to pushing forward the bilateral relationship in various sectors, especially in economic and trade collaboration. I look forward to witnessing our cooperation move to a new stage in the near future.

My efforts started from promoting the high-level visits to strengthening mutual political trust, which builds a firm foundation for economic cooperation. It’s a busy year for our high level leaders to exchange visits. Mr Sun Zhengcai, a member of the political Bureau and the Communist Party Secretary of Chongqing municipality, visited Slovenia in March. The President of the Slovenia National Council, Mitja Bervar, visited China in June. And then Mr. Dejan Židan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Forest Food, visited China in November. In the same month, Prime Minister Miro Cerar went to China to attend the fourth 16+1 summit.

We work together with Slovenia to reach governmental level agreement and jointly provide policy support for practical cooperation. In the forestry sector, the "ASEM Meeting on Sustainable Management and Use of Forests in Policy and Practice" was held this May. We totally support Slovenia to initiate the 16+1 forest cooperative mechanism and hold the first 16+1 high-level meeting on forestry cooperation in May 2016. Furthermore, in the tourism sector, the second 16+1 high-level meeting on tourism cooperation was held in Bled in September. ’The Memorandum of Understanding between China and CEE Countries active participation in the "One Belt One Road Initiative" was signed at the meeting. Another important achievement this year is that, under the joint effort of both countries, the "Protocol on the Health Condition of Slovenia Exporting Dairy Products to China" was signed, which opens the gate for Slovenian agriculture and food products in the Chinese market.

Some platforms were also built to connect Chinese and Slovenian companies. IEDC Bled, together with our embassy, organised the "China and Europe- 21 Century Global Leadership" Forum in June attended by China Construction, Power China and many other big companies. The First China Premium Brand Fair was at the Celje Fair, in which 60 Chinese companies exhibited their products. The Maribor municipality held the Slovenia-China Economic and Trade Forum in November, with more than 60 representatives from Shanghai, Jiangsu and other parts of China participating. More and more Chinese companies are willing to cooperate with their Slovenia counterparts. Over one hundred companies came to Slovenia to seek cooperation opportunities this year.

Last but not least, culture communication will also help to boost the economic cooperation. This year, the performance of TURADO by the China National Opera, as well as orchestras conducted by Chinese musicians, such as Mr Tan Dun, Mr Shao En, Mrs Zhang Hongyan, were warmly welcomed by Slovenian audiences. And more and more, Slovenia is impressed with Chinese culture through the Chinese Language Day and other events conducted by the Confucius Institute.

Great efforts to boost the cooperation have also been made by Slovenia. SPIRIT organised 10 companies to join the CEEC Trade and Investment Expo in Ningbo, China. More than 30 companies visited China with Minister Zidan and participated in the China International Agriculture Fair in Fuzhou. We look forward to Slovenia taking full advantage of the "One Belt One Road" Initiative and 16+1 mechanism to promote mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.

We look forward to Slovenia taking full advantage of the "One Belt One Road" Initiative and 16+1 mechanism to promote mutual benefit and win-win cooperation

Q What advice would you give to Slovenian companies which want to take advantage of these joint Chinese-Slovenian efforts and succeed in the Chinese market? In your opinion, what fields of trade can benefit most from this bilateral exchange? Are there any untapped advantages of Slovenian companies that they themselves are not aware of and that could give them a competitive advantage in your home country?

A Both Chinese and Slovenia companies should seize the opportunity of the "One Belt One Road" Initiative and 16+1 mechanism, which established a USD 10bn loan and investment cooperation funds, with a focus on infrastructure, high and new technologies and green economy projects. At this year’s 16+1 summit, China proposed a discussion on the establishment of a 16+1 finance company, to explore a commercial method to support cooperation among members.

I suggest those companies, who would like to explore the Chinese market or attract Chinese investment, to pay close attention to the "thirteenth five year plan", namely China’s national economic development plan for 2016- 2020. It will help them to hold the steering wheel of China’s future development. The proposal of the "thirteenth five year plan" unveils the development concept of "Innovation, Coordination, Green Development, Opening Up and Sharing", as well as the action plan "Made in China 2025" and "Internet+", which show the internet, ocean and green economy are becoming the key development points.

I was deeply impressed with Slovenia’s charm and competitiveness with quality infrastructure, quality links to regional markets, quality human resources and the quality of life. Your high technology capability in mobile, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, environmental protection and the new energy sector, meets our innovation development philosophy. Also, a new cooperation point related to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is exposing your strengths in winter sports.