Wei Jinghua: Chinese-Bulgarian Cooperation Opportunities Not Yet Fully Tapped
Novinite.com is interviewing ambassadors of Bulgaria's main trading partners as well as neighboring countries. Here is the interview with the Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria Wei Jinghua.
What projects for trade and economic cooperation are actively discusses between China and Bulgaria at present?
In economic terms China and Bulgaria largely complement each other, the cooperation potential is high. In the course of their development in the past thirty years of pursuit of a policy of reforms and opening up to the world many industrial sectors in China have already assumed leading global positions, examples being high-speed railways, nuclear power generation, renewable energy resources, green technology, communication equipment, agriculture, etc. Bulgaria is situated at a transportation hub between the Eastern and Western states, with very good natural conditions, skilled manpower and relatively low cost of investment expenditure. Following the principle of mutual benefit China and Bulgaria could quite realistically link their business in areas of mutual interest and pursue joint development. Since last year the Bulgarian Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the President of the country have successively visited China and the Bulgarian side has held a series of investment and tourism forums in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other cities in China. Parallel with that Chinese business delegations have held 8 business forums in Bulgaria and over 500 Chinese entrepreneurs have visited the country in quest of cooperation opportunities. These contacts have helped enhance the two countries’ knowledge about each other and have fostered cooperation between companies in various areas. Chinese statistics indicate that in 2013 the trade exchange between the two countries for the first time exceeded USD 2 billion, which was almost 10% up from the level for the previous year. Moreover, Bulgaria’s exports to China have increased considerably and bilateral trade exhibits a balancing trend. Furthermore, the companies in the two countries maintain close contacts for intensifying cooperation in the areas of transport and infrastructure. Chinese businesses operating in this field have amassed rich international experience, they have sufficient available financial resources and numerous well-established practices regarding technology and management of infrastructure projects, which they could share. Currently Chinese companies demonstrate serious interest in the projects concerning the Black Sea Motorway and the tunnel under Shipka peak. The two countries are keen on expanding cooperation in agriculture and tourism. We hope that with the support of the governments of China and Bulgaria the companies in the two countries will reach joint arrangements as soon as possible and will contribute to the economic and social development of the two states.
What are the biggest challenges in the bilateral trade and economic relations?
In recent years, due to the attention allotted by the state leaders and the joint efforts of the two countries, Chinese-Bulgarian economic relations have developed steadily, trade exchange has been continuously on the rise, investment and cooperation projects have been consistently drafted and overall there have been excellent development prospects. Naturally, there still are numerous aspects in the trade and economic cooperation between China and Bulgaria on which we need to focus in our work: first and foremost, the business-to-business contacts between the two countries are not yet sufficiently numerous, there is no sufficiently thorough knowledge about the market conditions in the other country, many cooperation opportunities have not yet been fully tapped. Secondly, in the majority of cases Chinese and Bulgarian firms operate on their own, as “lone warriors” when developing their market in the other country, the benefits of scale and measure implementation have not been achieved, there is no purposeful strategic planning, resources are not yet fully pooled and utilized. Thirdly, regulatory measures and policies are not sufficiently stable: for example, the regulations in the area of renewable energy sources have been repeatedly amended, due to which businesses, including the Chinese ones, have experienced economic shocks of various degrees that have impacted inversely investment security and corporate confidence. We hope that via the new cooperation platform in the China – Central and Eastern Europe format the diverse cooperation mechanisms will be fully utilized, so that we would be able to realize out advantages, to raise the cooperation level and to contribute actively to the elevation of this bilateral business and economic cooperation to a new level.
Which are the most promising areas or still untapped potential in the bilateral trade and economic cooperation?
Currently the areas of bilateral trade and economic cooperation are broad, they cover communications, electronics, the automotive industry, the power sector, transport, ecology, agriculture and other spheres. We believe that the two countries have a huge cooperation potential in the fields of agriculture, power generation and infrastructure. For instance, there are unique natural features for agriculture in your country, while the demand for such products in the Chinese market is enormous, the cooperation between the two countries is mutually complementary and the potential in this respect is significant. Since last year the governments of the two countries have successively signed phytosanitary protocols for exports of maize and alfalfa for China and a number of other protocols for the export of farming products are being negotiated. These regulatory documents will pave the way for the export of quality Bulgarian agricultural products to China. As regards the infrastructure sector, in September last year Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, presented the initiative for building the “Silk Road Economic Belt” linking the big markets of Asia and Europe. The Balkan countries, including Bulgaria, are the South-Eastern gate of Europe, the enhancement of infrastructure establishment in the countries in the region is of paramount importance for the further development of the commercial and economic relations between China and the Central and East European countries. We hope that the competent institutions of the two countries and the companies in this field will maintain intensive contacts and will jointly seek forms of cooperation applicable to the Bulgarian conditions to promote the implementation of infrastructure projects.
How do people in China view Bulgaria and Bulgarians?
Even though Bulgaria and China are thousands of kilometers apart, separated by mountains and seas, Bulgaria is not unknown to people in China. First and foremost, there is deep-going traditional friendship between our countries. Bulgaria was the second country in the world that recognized and established diplomatic relations with new China. China will never forget that. Secondly, with the comprehensive development of the close relations the traditional friendship between the two nations acquires new content. The so-called “three treasures” of Bulgaria: rose oil, yoghourt and wine, are highly appreciated and very popular in China. Chinese People show interest in Bulgaria’s beautiful nature, in the country’s rich historical, cultural and artistic heritage. We expect that with the deepening of the contacts between the two countries in the areas of culture and tourism a growing number of Chinese people will be able to come to Bulgaria on excursions or for vacations, that they will have the opportunity to enjoy an even greater number of cultural and artistic performances and events of eminent Bulgarian authors and artists.
Nowadays several thousand Chinese people live permanently in Bulgaria and do business in various spheres; there are also over ten companies with Chinese investments and several scores of Chinese students undergoing education in Bulgaria. For them Bulgaria is a second homeland, they are actively integrated in the Bulgarian society, thus building a peculiar bridge for trading and economic cooperation and for cultural dialogue between the two countries. I hope that the Bulgarian institutions and society will continue to create a favourable climate for them, that they will provide further facilities regarding visa issuing conditions, residence or stay status, business, education, etc., so that they can indeed become a cooperation bridge and ambassadors of the friendship between the two countries.
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