Record Number of Participants at 16 + 1 Initiative Summit

By 12 April 2019

ZAGREB, April 12, 2019 - The 9th Business Forum of CEEC & China (16 + 1) opened on Friday with a record number of participants and messages from the Croatian and Chinese prime ministers that Croatia has been known throughout history for its trade.

The 16+1 initiative was established in 2012 with the aim of strengthening trade between China and Central and Eastern European countries and this is the 9th business forum as part of that initiative that has both a political and economic dimension.

The prime ministers of Croatia and China, Andrej Plenković and Li Leqiang, respectively along with another 14 heads of government, numerous ministers, ambassadors and large trade delegations are attending the business forum in Dubrovnik which was launched with a video of Croatia's tradition of innovations as well as contemporary companies and innovators such as Mate Rimac, the Genos Laboratory, Photomath, Q Software, 3LHD, Prostoria and Ivan Mrvoš.

Opening the forum, Prime Minister Plenković expressed his satisfaction that the forum is being held in Dubrovnik which is on the UNESCO world heritage list and which was a leader in global trade between the 14th and 19th centuries. "It strengthened ties between the West and East," and possessed the third largest fleet in the world.

He added that the summit was held near the Korčula island where Marco Polo, who spent a significant part of his life in China, was born.

Prime Minister Li too underscored that Dubrovnik is a historical city known for its leading position in world trade and added that throughout history Croatia was a symbol of trade. "Croatia is a small country in population and size but it is large for its human potential and appetite for innovations," Plenković said.

He added that Croatia is the homeland of some world renown inventions and it is among the top 25 tourist destinations in the world with 20 million guests a year. Potential for further growth lies in Chinese tourists too, Plenković said adding that last year 250,000 Chinese nationals visited Croatia.

Plenković said that Croatia aims to modernise its two largest ports with a planned investment of 3 billion euro. "My country is an excellently positioned Mediterranean gateway to Central Europe," Plenković underlined.

The two prime ministers then together launched 16 + 1 Coordinating Mechanism website for small and medium-sized enterprises aimed at promoting business contacts between the 17 countries.

Companies of that size have "shown to be very active and fruitful and China wants to facilitate red tape," Prime Minister Li said.

With more than a thousand entrepreneurs arriving to Dubrovnik, Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan referred to the forum as a "record."

"The aim of this forum is cooperation. I hope that you won't just talk and debate but that you will consult and cooperate with each other," Prime Minister Li said.

He underscored that he believes in free trade at a time when the EU is calling for a reciprocal approach for its companies on the Chinese market, which Brussels considers too closed.

"A new technological revolution is underway and that is what defines our era," Prime Minister Li said and added the Beijing also wants to boost cooperation in the field of education and strengthen imports, particularly of agricultural products.

"Projects like the Pelješac Bridge have to be an inspiration for further cooperation," the Chinese prime minister concluded.

Croatia's Health Ministry, the HŽ Infrastruktura railway maintenance company and three other Croatian companies signed agreements on Friday in Dubrovnik on cooperation with Chinese business partners, including agreements on projects to build a football stadium in Rijeka and develop the Zagreb-Rijeka railroad.

Minister of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts Darko Horvat is certain that the agreements signed today will turn into concrete contracts. China is prepared to invest in Croatia and thus enter Central and Eastern Europe, Horvat underscored.

"There are more than 360 companies here from 17 countries, with almost 1,000 participants. Of that number, more than one hundred are representatives of the banking sector. New models of financing were presented and the opportunity has been created for Chinese financial institutions to enter Croatia so that those projects that currently can't obtain EU grants, can be financed and implemented," Horvat said.

Speaking of the ailing Uljanik shipbuilding group, Horvat underscored that Chinese shipbuilders would be arriving in Croatia in the next two weeks.

The Top International Engineering Corporation (TIEC) from China signed today two agreements on cooperation with Croatian partners, for the construction of a new football stadium in Rijeka and accompanying facilities, a hotel and business centre, and for the use of renewable energy sources.

"A concrete contract will be signed in one year's time on the project to build a football stadium in accordance with UEFA standards, a hotel and a business centre in Rijeka. Cooperation could be expanded to include the construction of a marina," the general director of the Kantrida Stadium company, Luka Ivančić, said.

TIEC will assist the other partner, the Eco Consult company, in implementing clean energy technology on the Chinese market, particularly in manufacturing industries that are large energy consumers and emit large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Eco Consult director Goran Pavlovic said.

Together with its partners - China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Corporation and China Road and Bridge Corporation - HŽ Infrastruktura has established cooperation in the transport sector, specifically on the Rijeka-Zagreb railroad project and the Mediterranean corridor.

The Metamorfoza company has agreed with the Shangai Everglow Management Partners in China to open the largest ever Museum of Illusions in Shanghai at the end of June this year.

"We are continuing to expand and are starting cooperation on the Chinese market by opening the Museum of Illusions in Shanghai, which is an excellent way to mark the beginning of the Croatian and Chinese year of culture and tourism," Antonija Prstačić of Metamorfoza said.

The Zagreb Faculty of Civil Engineering and China Road and Bridge Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding facilitating student mobility and exchange.

Croatian Chamber of Commerce president Luka Burilović expressed his satisfaction with the Dubrovnik forum.

"This forum is a turning point in economic relations between Croatia and China. Croatian private companies are arranging concrete deals through direct talks. We are exploiting the advantage of 'home ground.' It is good that public strategic projects have been foregrounded," Burilović underscored.

The Health Ministry signed a letter of intent with the Sinopharm pharmaceutical company on cooperation in science, health tourism, treatment, financial support and treatment of Chinese patients in Croatia.

"This has laid the foundation for concrete negotiations on projects, from specialisation courses to the referral of patients and investments in health tourism," Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said, adding that this included the possible arrival of Chinese physicians in Croatia.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.