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Wednesday 18.01.2017 | Name days: Antis, Antons

Ten things to know about 16+1 and Latvia’s role in it

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULess than a month from now, at the beginning of November Latvia’s capital city of Riga will serve as the host for a summit of leaders from China, eleven European member states and five Balkan countries participating in the 16+1 cooperation format. At this summit, Latvia will have an opportunity to promote its image on the international stage and establish new economic contacts. Here are ten things worth knowing about 16+1.

What is 16+1?

The 16+1 cooperation platform is a Chinese initiative aimed at activating cooperation with eleven EU member states and five Balkan countries in the fields of investment, transport, finances, science, education and culture. China has defined three priority directions for cooperation: infrastructure, high technologies and green technologies.

What is the cooperation goal for 16+1?

The cooperation goal is to enhance national and regional projects. Instead of replacing existing mutual cooperation mechanisms or platforms, this cooperation is meant to complement and reinforce cooperation between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries. 16+1 cooperation will develop synergy with the main European initiatives and plans to provide contribution to China’s and EU’s partner relations in peace, growth, reforms and civilization, as reported by Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

What events related to 16+1 will take place in Latvia?

This autumn, Latvia will organize the most important events of 16+1 format – the fifth meeting of country leaders and other events associated with it, including a business forum and a think-tank conference. The meeting of transport ministers will take place in Riga in May 2017.

When will the summit take place?

The summit of leaders from Central and Eastern European countries and China will be taking place in Riga throughout 4th – 7th November.

What are Latvia’s priorities?

The 16+1 cooperation format will enhance the mutual dialogue between Latvia and China and between the EU and China. It also offers a number of economic interests in transports and logistics. Other priorities also include the promotion of Latvia’s image on the international stage, enhance economic contacts and coordinate cooperation in logistics by forming a logistic coordination secretariat.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry notes that «the organizational duties for 2016 events offer Latvia great opportunities for increasing its role in 16+1 format, promoting its image on the international stage, improving economic contacts with China in the field of logistics, tourism, culture, education and science. With that in mind, Latvia has been actively developing our region’s range of cooperation with China since the first 16+1 summit in 2012.»

What do officials say?

Latvian Transport Minister Uldis Augulis affirmed Latvia’s preparedness to actively work with China at the first 16+1 summit. He emphasized that China is a very important partner for Latvia’s transport sector, which is shown by many visits of Chinese officials and businessmen to Latvia over the past several years. Container cargo flow between China and Europe already increases.

This increase goes both ways, which is a very promising index, as noted by China’s Transport Vice-Minister Dai Dongchang. He added that China wishes to make this process even more active to provide benefits for all involved sides. «Latvia and its favourable geographical location, which offers advantages for marine and land transports, is a considerable cooperation partner for logistical development,» – Dai added.

«Latvia with its well-developed transport infrastructure, three major ports and modern distribution centres can be an interesting destination for many – Asia, Russia and CIS, Western Europe, Northern Europe and the Black Sea region. The country’s geographical location makes Latvia a natural bridge between the west and east, as well as north and south. With have good experience when it comes to container trains – we can offer effective deliveries of Chinese goods to Europe and Scandinavia,» – Augulis said.

Transport Ministry’s representative Andris Maldups had told the media last year that «16+1 format is very beneficial for Latvia and other countries participating in it». Previous Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma had once expressed Latvia’s support of the One Belt- One Road initiative.

Meanwhile, Sandra Sondore, advisor to Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio in September that talks among officials and businessmen are especially important in light of the approaching summit, considering the cooperation format is one of Latvia’s main hopes for the future. «Now that China and Russia both decide on investments in the New Silk Road and the routes to be used for it, you can understand that it is the golden moment for us. The road may end in Tallinn, Klaipeda, Poland or Germany. We expect a serious fight for the final destination. […] It will be decided by our ability to react to this situation,» – Sondore emphasized.

What do businessmen think?

Businessmen largely agree with Sondore. For example, Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics has turned to Latvia’s highest ranking officials, ministers, social partners and representatives of foreign investors with a proposal to gather and develop competitive and modern offers for transit services using Latvian ports and Latvia’s transport infrastructure. BATL urges officials to take notice of the changes currently taking place in the global transport industry. China has already unveiled its ambitious plans for the New Silk Road. Western countries, in the meanwhile, are searching for the fastest, cheapest and most effective transit roads for delivering goods to the east.

Participation in the New Silk Road is currently the only option to ensure Latvia does not end up in transit isolation, said BATL President Inga Antane in an interview to Rīta Panorāma. She had previously said that «it is important that Latvia uses all advantages offered by 16+1. […] China has offered us a hand. We – Latvia – has to be clever enough to use all opportunities provided by this initiative!»

«Considering the complicated state of Latvia’s transit industry and rapid cargo volume decline experienced in the first quarter of 2016, there is now an acute need for diversification of cargo transports to new markets. I strongly believe Latvia has no right to miss opportunities offered by 16+1 and we must put all our efforts into making sure Latvia signs specific cooperation agreements at the next meeting of prime ministers,» – Antane told the media.

What is One Belt, One Road?

China’s New Silk Road initiative One Belt, One Road provides for the development of connectivity and cooperation on the Eurasian continent. For example, one of the goals of this initiative provides for the development of transport connectivity between China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.

What Latvia gains from cooperating with China?

Last year, China was Latvia’s 21st largest partner in exports and 9th largest partner in imports of goods. The bulk of Latvia’s exports to China consist of wood and its products (41%), cars and machineries, electrical appliances (16%), metals and their products (13%), mineral products (12%) and agricultural and food products (7%). Imports from China are dominated by cars and machineries; electrical appliances (55%), chemical goods (11%), light manufacture goods (8%).

What was accomplished in the past?

The 16+1 cooperation format summit first took place in Warsaw, Poland, in 2012. During that summit, the Chinese Prime Minister presented a general look for the cooperation with 16 Central and Eastern European Countries titled ‘China’s Twelve Measures for Promoting Friendly Cooperation with Central and Eastern European Countries’.

Previous summits were organized in Warsaw (2012), Bucharest (2013), Belgrade (2014) and Suzhou (2015), as BNN was informed by Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

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