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BUDAPEST, November 27, Xinhua -- Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday called for advancing cooperation between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), also known as the 16+1 cooperation.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the seventh China and the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) Economic and Trade Forum in Budapest, Hungary, Nov. 27, 2017. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

As an important part of and a helpful complement to China-Europe ties, 16+1 cooperation has promoted the development of China-Europe relations, Li said in a keynote speech to the seventh China-CEEC Economic and Trade Forum held in the Hungarian capital city of Budapest.

The premier called for docking the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of the CEEC and taking the lead in implementing the results of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe.

Speaking to over 1,000 entrepreneurs from China and the CEEC at the opening ceremony of the forum, Li also demanded efforts to accelerate the building of connectivity projects such as the Hungary-Serbia railway and promote the healthy development of China-Europe freight train services.

Production capacity is also an area where the two sides should expand cooperation, said Li, calling for jointly building economic and trade cooperation zones and creating an industrial chain, value chain and logistics chain featuring closer integration, stronger drive and wider benefit.

Li also called upon the two sides to boost trade and investment liberalization and facilitation by strengthening customs cooperation and speeding up logistics, and to promote cooperation in the fields of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Chinese premier urged the two sides to expand financing channels to support China-CEEC cooperation.

In the speech, Li announced the establishment of China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association and the second phase of China-Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund.

The China Development Bank will provide an equivalent amount of 2 billion euros (2.4 billion U.S. dollars) as development-oriented financial cooperation loans for the inter-bank association, Li said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese premier said the second phase of the investment cooperation fund that totaled 1 billion dollars will be mainly invested in Central and Eastern Europe.

China supports commercial and development financial institutions to provide finance for bilateral cooperation projects and supports the two sides to conduct renminbi-denominated financing business for their cooperation projects, Li said.

China's economy has been transformed from a phase of high-speed growth to high-quality development, and this will surely create opportunities for all countries in the world including the CEEC in terms of bigger market, stronger growth, more investment and cooperation, Li said.

On his part, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said 16+1 cooperation has covered economy and trade, connectivity and people-to-people exchanges in the past five years, which not only benefited the CEEC's development, but also became an effective mechanism and integral part of Europe-China mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation.

In the context of a changing world political order and economic landscape, 16 Central and Eastern European countries are willing to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with China and take this as the opportunity for development, in line with the spirit of equal treatment and mutual respect, Orban said.

Orban also said the CEEC will actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and create better environment for Chinese companies investing and developing in Central and Eastern Europe.

Li arrived in Budapest on Sunday for an official visit to Hungary and for the sixth meeting of heads of government of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries.

During his stay in Hungary, Li will hold bilateral meetings with CEEC leaders and work with them to outline future cooperation. He will also witness the signing of a series of cooperation documents and celebrate the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the 16+1 cooperation.

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