China says open for trade with east Europe as clash with US ramps up

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (C) and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov inspect an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony in Sofia on July 6, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 07 July 2018
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China says open for trade with east Europe as clash with US ramps up

  • Sofia hopes to lure Chinese funds for highway and railway projects to link ports on the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea
  • More than 250 Chinese companies and 700 officials from central and eastern Europe are expected to attend an economic forum alongside the summit

SOFIA: China remains open for trade with foreign partners and can only benefit from an economically strong Europe, its premier said on Saturday as he pressed for expanded ties with the continent’s eastern wing while waging a tariff war with Washington.
Li Keqiang told a summit with central and eastern European leaders that China would continue opening its markets and implementing other reforms that had fueled its economy, providing opportunities for EU members and aspirants in the bloc’s poorer half.
“It is two-way traffic,” Li said through an interpreter.
.”..Opening up has been a key driver of China’s reform agenda so we will continue to open wider to the world, including widening market access for foreign investors.”
Li’s attendance at the seventh “16+1” summit in Sofia coincided with the first salvos in what risks becoming a protracted global trade war, as Washington and Beijing slapped tariffs on $34 billion worth of each others’ goods.
Some participating countries have begun doubting the value of the annual meetings, and China has come under pressure to show its courting of individual countries from the Baltics to the Balkans would not hurt the European Union as a whole.
“If Europe is weakened, it will only be bad news for China, not the other way around,” Li said. “This (16+1) platform needs to stay open. It needs to be transparent.”
Officials from the EU, World Bank, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were invited and Li said those organizations were welcome to jointly fund projects in central and eastern Europe.
KEEPING IT SWEET
Mindful of the need to keep relations with the EU on an even keel as his trade battles with US President Donald Trump intensify, Li has been careful to stress China’s support for European integration and rules in trade and procurement.
He said China was ready to fund a Global Partnership Center in Sofia that should help Chinese companies understand EU market rules and adhere to them in the region.
Analysts have said Li, who will travel to Germany on Sunday ahead of a wider China-EU summit in Beijing, would avoid any issues that might irk western EU governments.
He is holding bilateral meetings in Sofia with all the leaders of the eastern countries. He said these were also not meant to divide Europe.
Some 18 bilateral agreements and memorandums were signed, but no new major deals were announced.
China has promised billions of dollars for development projects in the region as part of its Belt and Road strategy to carve out new export markets.
More than 1,000 business people from China and central and eastern Europe attended an economic forum alongside the summit, seeking deals in trade, technology, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.
Bulgaria hopes the summit will help secure funds to build new infrastructure, mainly in the Balkans, which still lags richer western EU states.
“16+1 is a format that aims to strengthen Europe,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said in his opening remarks. “It gives more opportunities to those who joined the EU later to catch up faster.”
Last month Hungary finalized the construction timetable with Beijing for a Budapest-Belgrade rail link. But outside Hungary, Chinese investments have not met expectations.
Countries taking part in the summit include the region’s EU states, plus Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Croatia will host the next 16+1 summit in 2019.
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Contractor appointed for $1.4bn Jubail Island project in Abu Dhabi

Updated 37 min 57 sec ago
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Contractor appointed for $1.4bn Jubail Island project in Abu Dhabi

  • Project will be open to foreign property investors
  • Gulf Contractors Company to carry out enabling works

LONDON: A contractor has been appointed to carry out initial works for a $1.4 billion island development in Abu Dhabi.

Gulf Contractors Company won the enabling works contract for the Jubail Island project in the UAE capital, the company behind the development said.

The works under the contract are scheduled for completion in January 2020, according to the Jubail Island Investment Company (JIIC), the UAE state news agency WAM reported.

Enabling works generally involve major earthworks and grading of a site, ahead of the installation of infrastructure such as roads, utilities, and other facilities. 

Over 2.5 million cubic meters of material will be excavated and placed to create the formation level for over 40 kilometers of roadways and more than 800 residential properties as part of the contracted works, according to WAM.

The giant Jubail Island project will span six “investment zone villages” and will be home to between 5,000 and 6,000 residents, according to the developer. 

The project, which has 13 kilometers of waterfront and is being built on a natural island in Abu Dhabi emirate, is slated for completion in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“Offering housing, commercial, leisure and freehold investment opportunities particularly for Emiratis and expatriates is a central planning element for Jubail Island,” said Mounir Haidar, managing director of JIIC.

“Today’s announcement confirms the timely delivery of the newly launched project in conformity with leading construction and environmental standards.”

Abu Dhabi in April amended its real estate laws, lifting restrictions on foreigners owning freehold properties in certain free zones in the emirate.