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China says open for trade with east Europe as clash with U.S. ramps up

Reuters  |  SOFIA 

By and Angel Krasimirov

(Reuters) - remains open for trade with foreign partners and can only benefit from an economically strong Europe, its said on Saturday as he pressed for expanded ties with the continent's eastern wing while waging a tariff war with

told a summit with central and eastern European leaders that would continue opening its markets and implementing other reforms that had fuelled its economy, providing opportunities for EU members and aspirants in the bloc's poorer half.

"It is two-way traffic," Li said through an

"...Opening up has been a key 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 coincided with the first salvos in what risks becoming a protracted global trade war, as and slapped tariffs on $34 billion worth of each others' goods.

Some participating countries have begun doubting the value of the annual meetings, and has come under pressure to show its courting of individual countries from the to the would not hurt the as a whole.

"If is weakened, it will only be bad 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 were invited and Li said those organisations were welcome to jointly fund projects in central and eastern


Mindful of the need to keep relations with the EU on an even keel as his trade battles with U.S. 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 that should help Chinese companies understand EU market rules and adhere to them in the region.

Analysts have said Li, who will travel to 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

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 attended an economic forum alongside the summit, seeking deals in trade, technology, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.

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 said in his opening remarks. "It gives more opportunities to those who joined the EU later to catch up faster."

Last month finalised the construction timetable with for a Budapest-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, and

will host the next 16+1 summit in 2019.

($1 = 1.6729 leva)

(Writing by Jason Hovet; editing by John Stonestreet)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, July 07 2018. 18:22 IST