News from Flanders Europe's smart hub
Quarterly e-newsletter for Chinese companies and organizations looking to do business in and with Flanders
High-Level Visit to Belgium

Visit of President Xi Jinping to Belgium

From left to right : Mr Bert De Graeve, CEO Bekaert, Chairman, FCCC; President Xi Jinping, Premier Di Rupo; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs Didier Reynders;  Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem
From left to right : Mr Bert De Graeve, CEO Bekaert, Chairman, FCCC; President Xi Jinping, Premier Di Rupo; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs Didier Reynders; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem

Chinese President Xi Jinping, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan and a strong business delegation, has paid a visit to Belgium and to the EU headquarters in Brussels from March 30 till April 1, 2014 as part of a four-nation European tour. He delivered a speech at the College of Europe in Bruges, which houses the first China Library in Europe. China and Europe need to build four “bridges” to enhance their friendship and cooperation, Xi said. A bridge of peace would mean multilateralism and dialogue instead of war, unilateralism and confrontation. A bridge of growth must uphold open markets, speed up negotiations on an investment agreement, actively explore the possibility of a free trade agreement (FTA), and strive to achieve the goal of bringing two-way trade to USD1 trillion by 2020. A bridge of reform joins China and the European Union in pursuing unprecedented reforms. Finally, a bridge of common cultural prosperity unites Eastern and Western cultures. President Xi called for joint efforts for “all flowers of human civilizations to blossom together”. He added that China has always supported European integration and a bigger role in international affairs by a united, stable and prosperous EU. China also released its second EU policy paper to reiterate the high importance it places on the EU.

President Xi Jinping visited the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 31 – a first for a Chinese President. He met and held talks with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Xi said he hoped Europe will keep markets open, exercise caution over the use of trade remedy measures and bring trade friction under control. The European Union has agreed to consider to open talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) with China if current negotiations on an investment agreement are successful. Talk of a free trade deal, which would create a market of almost 2 billion people, seemed unthinkable just a year ago, the Shanghai Daily reported. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that both sides “should start the feasibility study on a free trade agreement, and jointly improve the quality and level of China-EU trade.” EU Council President Van Rompuy said the EU is willing to speed up negotiations for a Europe-China investment agreement and for a free trade pact, and to cooperate with China in areas including urbanization, sustainable development and coping with climate change.

President Xi started his visit to Belgium on March 30 at Brussels airport, where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. At the Royal Palace he met HRH King Philippe, who awarded him the Order of Leopold, an honorary knighthood. President Xi Jinping also attended the official opening of the panda pavilion at the Pairi Daiza zoo south of Brussels. On March 31 he held formal talks with the Belgian government, and attended a state banquet at the Royal Palace of Laeken, which Mr Bert De Graeve, Chairman of the Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce (FCCC) and CEO of Bekaert also joined. “The Chinese people are fond of tea and the Belgians love beer. To me, the moderate tea drinker and the passionate beer lover represent two ways of understanding life and knowing the world, and I find them equally rewarding,” President Xi said. On April 1, accompanied by HRH King Philippe and Geely Chairman Li Shufu, President Xi visited the Volvo Car plant in Ghent, where they presented the 300,000th Volvo car produced for the Chinese market.

Earlier, President Xi Jinping had met U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, where Xi made a keynote speech. “China is firmly committed to building a new model of major country relations based on no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation with regard to the United States,” Xi said.

The Chinese President also visited France and Germany. China signed a new 10-year accord allowing Airbus to assemble A320 planes in Tianjin until 2025 and unblocked orders for larger jets worth a total of more than USD6 billion. Watched by visiting President Xi and his French counterpart Francois Hollande, Chinese officials in Paris also signed deals to co-produce 1,000 French EC-175 helicopters over 20 years with Airbus’ helicopter division and to cooperate on turbo-prop engines with France’s Safran.

In Germany, Xi Jinping, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, was greeted with military honors by his counterpart Joachim Gauck at the presidential palace. Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel oversaw the signing of deals including agreements for automaker Daimler to expand production at its Beijing-based venture Beijing Benz, and BMW to deepen ties with its Chinese partner. A deal was also reached between the countries’ central banks that will allow yuan-denominated payments to be cleared and settled in Germany’s financial center, Frankfurt.