Croatia and China open ambitious chapter in economic and trade relations

Photo /AA_2018_b-fotke/2019 vijesti/HN20190410097677.JPG

​Croatia and China on Wednesday opened a new, ambitious chapter in their economic and trade relations, which their prime ministers described as "a fruitful milestone". Twenty-seven years since the two countries established diplomatic relations, China is ready to increase investment in the newest EU member state and open its market to more Croatian products, especially agricultural ones. Trade between the two countries is about a billion euros annually, and 250,000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia last year.

"We will import more Croatian products that suit Chinese consumers and encourage a more balanced trade," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said after meeting with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic.

Li, the first Chinese head of government to visit Croatia, said that he had eaten Croatian food at a reception on Tuesday evening and enjoyed it.

He called on the Croatian government to prepare more specialised tourist products for Chinese visitors which they would buy and take home.

"Although we are geographically distant, we are willing to bring our hearts closer together and open a diamond period in our relations", Li said.

Relations between Zagreb and Beijing have peaked after the China Road and Bridge Corporation was selected to build the Peljesac Bridge in southern Croatia.

The next major projects could be the modernisation of the Zagreb-Rijeka railway and Croatian seaports. "We are ready to increase the synchronisation of the One Belt, One Road initiative with Croatian development strategies," Li said.

The two countries on Wednesday signed six agreements concerning railways, agriculture, digital technology and tourism. Another four are due to be signed at the 16+1 summit in Dubrovnik on Thursday and Friday.

Marco Polo and 500 million Chinese football supporters

"This visit is a milestone for Croatia-China relations" and "a great opportunity for Croatian exporters and businesses," Prime Minister Plenkovic said.

The meeting between Li and Plenkovic was their sixth in the last two and a half years. Plenkovic presented him with an electric bicycle manufactured by the Rimac company and a football signed by members of the Croatian national football team, while Li's gift to Plenkovic was a basketball and a Chinese national basketball team jersey.

The two leaders attended the opening of an exhibition on scholars of ancient China in Zagreb's Klovicevi Dvori Gallery, which marked the Chinese-Croatian Year of Culture and Tourism and will include a number of bilateral events in both countries.

Li said that the Chinese know about Croats through Marco Polo, "the man who connected the East and the West and who was born on the island of Korcula", and the Croatian national football team at the World Cup championship in Russia.

"Half a billion Chinese watched their success, so it can be said that you have the biggest fan base in China," Li said in jest.