Plenković Talks Informally with President Xi of China

By 5 November 2018

ZAGREB, November 5, 2018 - On the fourth day of his visit to China, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković attended the inaugural China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai on Monday, meeting with a number of politicians and business executives and making a speech on trade and innovation.

Plenković informally met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of the world's most powerful people, who opened the fair saying that he would continue opening the Chinese market to foreign products and reducing import duties. "I am pleased with the overall impression of political talks at the highest level as well as with contacts with many Chinese companies, both state-owned and private, which are showing a great interest in Croatia," the Croatian prime minister said. "I spoke with Mr Xi informally, such was the context of this fair. I see that he likes Croatia and that he knows our country," he added.

Plenković met with Li Jian, General Manager of the Huawei telecommunications company for Europe, which has shown an interest in cooperation. "This company wants to intensify cooperation and be a partner to Croatia in the digital age," the prime minister said. "I think we are facing an intensive period, especially in view of the fact that Croatia will host the next summit of the China+16 initiative in Dubrovnik in the spring of 2019. After that, I expect even greater dynamics in relations. That's why I think this visit has achieved all the key goals which we have come here for," Plenković said.

China has organised the historic CIIE fair to alleviate criticisms that its trade policy and huge surplus are upsetting the balance of the global economy and has shown that it can be a global economic leader. President Xi said in his opening remarks that he supports free trade and pledged to continue opening the Chinese market to foreign products and reducing import duties.

Commenting on his speech, Plenković said that Xi's message today was a watershed. "China, which has dominated in terms of exports, is now opening up to other markets and their exports. This is an opportunity for Croatian exporters on a huge market of nearly 1.4 billion people. That's why I expect a strong engagement on the part of our industries and our companies," he said.

Asked by the press if Europe was afraid of Chinese capital, Plenković said that "generally, there are certain reservations." "I think the crucial question is when China will gain the status of a market economy. Messages from President Xi's address today are important, including that China will tighten its rules on compliance with intellectual property rights," Plenković said. "As for investment, don't forget that present here at the fair are all European Union countries, including Germany, which are interested in continuing their cooperation with China," he added. "We need to adjust to a balanced view of global developments and seek our opportunities on these markets," Plenković concluded.

A discussion on trade and innovation was held as part of the fair, involving, among others, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

In his speech, Plenković presented innovators and inventors associated with Croatia, including 16th century inventor Faust Vrančić (Fausto Veranzio), who is believed to be the first person to build and test a parachute; electrical and mechanical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla; anthropologist Ivan Vučetić, who pioneered the use of fingerprinting; and young entrepreneur Mate Rimac, who has developed the world's fastest electric car Concept 2.

"The most brilliant example of innovation coming from Croatia today is the company Rimac Automobili," Plenković said. This company has announced cooperation with the Chinese Camel Group which should result in the opening of a 158 million dollar electric motor and battery factory in Hebei province in central China, he added.

"We believe that encouraging such individual undertakings and innovative new products presents an opportunity for Croatia to participate and compete globally," Plenković said. He reminded those present, most of whom were Asian entrepreneurs, that Croatia has an excellent geographic position in terms of transport. "By using Croatian ports, you can save a whole week for all goods being shipped from Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal," he said.

The CIIE is open until November 10. More than 3,000 companies from 130 countries, including 27 from Croatia, are participating in the event. The organisers expect that over 300,000 visitors will have seen the exhibition.

A Croatian-Chinese business form, organised by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, will take place in Shanghai on Tuesday.

For more on Mate Rimac, click here.