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March 30, 2016

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Xi signs landmark Czech agreement

CHINESE President Xi Jinping yesterday signed a landmark strategic partnership with his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman in Prague.

The Czech president, who had billed Xi’s visit as a chance to boost trade with the world’s second-largest economy, announced that Chinese investors would pour CZK95 billion (US$3.93 billion) into the central European country this year alone.

Zeman welcomed the Chinese leader with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, at Prague Castle.

Zeman said he wanted the Czech Republic to become a “safe haven” for Chinese investment in the EU. Xi said the agreement gave the “political direction” for the future development of bilateral relations.

Both presidents spoke highly of current bilateral relations and reached broad consensus on bilateral ties, the relations between China and the European Union as well as the cooperation between China and the countries in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

Xi pointed out that the relationship between China and the Czech Republic is booming with frequent high-level official interactions and flourishing economic cooperation between the two countries.

China stands ready to work with the Czech Republic to cherish the sound yet hard-won bilateral relations, strengthen mutual political trust and promote pragmatic cooperation, he said.

Zeman, referring to China as “a major economic partner” of the European Union, said his country is committed to becoming a gateway for China to the EU and a hub for transport, logistics and finance in China-EU trade.

The two countries issued a joint statement on lifting their ties to a strategic partnership after talks in which both sides agreed to continue close high-level contacts as the exemplary for over-all relations, enhancing friendly cooperation between ministries, legislative bodies and local governments.

The two sides also decided to establish an intergovernmental strategic dialogue mechanism to map out the future development of the bilateral ties.

Xi reaffirmed China’s long-standing support for Europe’s integration and said China is happy to see a prosperous, united and stable EU, and is willing to work with EU members and other European countries to contribute positively to world peace and development.

Chinese group CEFC, among the country’s top-10 private companies, recently spent about CZK20 billion to acquire stakes in a Czech airline, a brewery, two media groups and a top football team.

Zeman said Czech carmaker Skoda Auto, a unit of Germany’s Volkswagen, would invest CZK60 billion in China over the next five years.

Xi arrived in Prague on Monday for a three-day state visit, the first by a Chinese president in the 67 years since the two countries established diplomatic ties. It is also Xi’s maiden visit to the CEE region since he assumed presidency in 2013 and his first trip to Europe this year.

Xi said the two countries had a responsibility to renew their long-standing friendship. Zeman said he believes Xi’s visit will provide new opportunities to enhance political trust and exchanges.

On Monday, Zeman hosted the Chinese president at his official residence, where the two were photographed planting a ginkgo tree, holding watering cans emblazoned with their national flags.

During his visit to China in 2014, Zeman presented Xi with an apple tree sapling, which symbolizes cooperation in the Czech Republic.

After his visit to Prague, Xi will travel to the United States to attend a nuclear security summit which begins tomorrow.


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