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Vice Minister Ma Xiuhong's speech at the Celebration of the "Prince Albert Fund" (2005-06-07)
2005-06-07 00:00

Your Majesty,

Your Royal Highness,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed my great honor to be invited to attend the grand Celebration for the 20th Anniversary of the "Prince Albert Fund". Let me first express my sincere gratitude to the Fund for its kind invitation.

For the past 20 years, more than 240 young and bright Belgian professionals have benefited from the Fund's support to improve their international business capabilities. By training those talents, the "Fund" has contributed to the increasing competitiveness of Belgian companies in the global market. The Fund has consistently put its focus on Asia, especially the Chinese and Indian markets. By doing so, the Fund has demonstrated its foresight and strategic thinking, and has promoted Belgium's economic and trade cooperation with Asia, particularly with China. At today's Celebration, on behalf of Vice Premier Mme Wu Yi and the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China, I would like to extend our warm congratulations to Your Majesty and to the "Prince Albert Fund".

The economic and trade relationship is an important part of the overall relationship between China and Belgium. Developing sound and stable bilateral commercial ties is in the fundamental interest of the Chinese and Belgian people. Since 1971 when China and Belgium established diplomatic relations, our bilateral economic and trade cooperation has maintained a general trend of rapid development.

Trade flows between China and Belgium jumped to 6. 7 billion US dollars in 2003, 300 times that of 1971. The trade volume this year, will exceed 8 billion US dollars. Today, among the 25 EU members, Belgium is China's 5th largest import market and 6th largest export market.

Belgium is among the first group of developed countries investing in China. In 1983, the Belgian company, BTM and Belgian government fund, together with its Chinese partner, set up the Shanghai Bell Telecommunication Equipment Manufacturing Ltd, the first foreign joint venture in China's telecommunication sector. In the past 2 decades, by bringing capital, advanced technology and management into China, and through its extensive training programs, Shanghai Bell played a very important role in the modernization of China's telecommunication industry. The Xi'an Janssen Pharmaceutical Ltd. invested by the Belgian Janssen Pharmaceutical Company in 1985, is another success story. It was the first foreign-funded hi-tech enterprise in Western China and is today one of China's biggest pharmaceutical companies. Xi'an Janssen has made positive contributions not only to our fast-growing pharmaceutical industry, but also to the economic development of China's West. Since then, Belgian investment in China has grown steadily. By the end of April this year, almost 500 Belgium-invested enterprises were set up, which cover telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, bio-tech, printing, machinery, automobile, iron and steel and other manufacturing sectors, as well as infrastructure and trade in services. By investing more than 690 million US dollars, Belgium is China's 7th largest source of FDI among the 25 EU members.

Due to China's rapid economic development and improving investment climate, the vast majority of Belgian funded enterprises are reporting good business performance and sizable returns on their investment.

History clearly shows that the development of bilateral trade and investment brings tangible benefits to the businesses and peoples of our two countries.

Reform and opening up are the two fundamental State policies of China since 1979. Thanks to the persistent market economic reform and continuous market openings over the past 25 years, China has successfully realized the transition from the traditional planned economy to the market economy, and has completed the WTO accession. Today, China has integrated into the global economic system and is playing an important and positive role in promoting world economic prosperity.

The Chinese economy has been on the fast track since 1980, and has achieved an annual average GDP growth of 9.4%. In 2003, the country's GDP reached 1.4 trillion US dollars, rising by 9.1%, making China the 6th largest economy in the world. Although China's share in the global GDP was a modest 4%, its contribution to world economic growth was as high as 13%. From 1990 to 2000, China's imports and exports realized an annual average growth of 15%, which was 2.5 times as much as the world trade growth. The trade volume of China last year stood at 851 billion US dollars, increasing by 37%, supporting China's position as the 4th largest trading nation in the world.

In recent years, China has made major breakthroughs in terms of both inflow and outflow of cross-border direct investment. In 2002, FDI inflows into China reached 53 billion US dollars, and it's the highest in the world, and in 2003, it stood at 54 billion US dollars, the second highest in the world. Up to now, there are 186 countries and regions making investment in China, and more than 400 of the top 500 multinational corporations are operating in the country, nearly 40 of them have already moved their regional headquarters into China. By the end of April this year, nearly 486,000 enterprises with foreign investment were set up, with a total realized foreign investment of 521 billion US dollars.

In order to adapt to the trend of economic globalization, while continuing to attract FDI into China, the Chinese government has started to encourage Chinese enterprises to invest overseas. By the end of last year, China had set up more than 7500 enterprises in over 160 countries and regions, and China's overseas direct investment amounted to nearly 12 billion US dollars.

Since China became a full member of the WTO on December 11, 2001, the Chinese government has made great efforts to fully implement its commitments.

On trade in goods, China has substantially reduced import tariffs and non-tariff measures, and removed all agricultural export subsidies.

On trade in services, according to its WTO obligations, China has improved market access to various service sectors such as the retail business, communications, construction, distribution, financing, insurance, tourist, transportation sectors, and so on.

In order to implement WTO rules and China's commitments, more than 30 departments of the State Council reviewed about 2,300 laws, regulations and rules, abolished 840 and amended 336 of them. In less than 2 years, China has established a foreign trade and economic legal system compatible with WTO rules.

As to transparency, the Chinese government made timely notifications to the WTO on nearly 400 items, in which over 100 were related to relevant laws, regulations and rules.

On the issue of intellectual property rights, the Chinese government has modified its Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Regulations to Protect Computer Software, and other laws and regulations concerned, making its IPR legislation fully compatible with WTO TRIPS Agreement. The government has also taken effective measures to continuously strengthen law enforcement, and organized education sessions to increase public awareness of IPR protection.

In order to effectively implement the newly-amended laws and regulations across the country, China has enhanced training and capacity building. Working in partnership with the business community, the Chinese government has staged a massive campaign, perhaps the largest in the history of GATT and the WTO. It also organized various WTO training programs, which were attended by more than ten million people across the country.

China's efforts on WTO implementation have produced remarkable results, especially in further market openings.

Since China's accession to the WTO, its import continued a rapid growth. In 2002, it reached 295 billion US dollars, up by 21% as compared with the year before. In 2003, increased by another 40% and amounted to 413 billion US dollars. From January to April this year, the volume of import went up by 42. 4%, 9 percentage points higher than export growth, leaving China with a trade deficit of 10.8 billion US dollars.

At the same time, China's imports from Belgium also grew rapidly. Based on a 17.5% increase in 2002, it went up by 37% last year. During the first 4 months of this year, the imports from Belgium continued to grow by 29%. There is a clear trend that China is becoming one of the factors driving Belgian export growth.

Since China's accession to the WTO, the service sectors of China have become a new focus of foreign investors. In the past two years, nearly 18,300 foreign invested enterprises were set up in China's service sector, with a total foreign investment of 27 billion US dollars, increasing by 31% and 24% respectively.

During the past 2 and half decades, the living standard of the Chinese people has improved remarkably. In 2002, for the first time, China's per capita income exceeded 1000 US dollars, 6 times that of 1979. The rapid increase of per capita income of one fifth of the world population has generated enormous purchasing power. As a result, the Chinese market has become one of the largest markets in the world, and its potential is being continuously released.

Last year, China's total retail volume of consumer goods was about 560 billion US dollars, and the total sales volume of productive factors surpassed 1 trillion US dollars. Over 2.1 million cars were sold, making China the world's third largest sedan car market. The expressways reached 28,000 kilometers, the second longest in the world. There are over 500 million telephone users and more than 78 million Internet users, making China the No. 1 and No. 2 in the respective world markets.

The changing consumption pattern also reflects the improvement of people's living standard. Nowadays, housing, automobile, computer, electronic and telecommunication products, tourism and education are becoming driving forces of domestic consumption.

China has set up the goal of building a well-off society in an all round way in the next 15 years. Its GDP is expected to exceed 4 trillion US dollars in 2020, realizing a 7% increase on average. Per capita income will reach 3000 US dollars based on 1.5 billion population. Total retail volume of consumer goods will reach nearly 2. 4 trillion US dollars, and total imports will amount to about 1 trillion US dollars. When those objectives are met, China will possibly become the world's second largest market. To this end, China has to actively face up to various challenges, upgrade its opening-up in all aspects and further its economic and trade cooperation with the rest of the world. A more dynamic and open China, with 1.3 billion people, will create numerous business opportunities for its partners, including Belgium.

Your Majesty,

Your Royal Highness,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Most friends with us today are witnesses of the evolution of this important relationship between our two nations over the past 33 years, and have made great efforts in order to bring it to where we are today. The Royal Family of Belgium always plays a very important and positive role in promoting the development of China-Belgium relationship. Your Majesty visited China twice to facilitate bilateral relationship, in particular the economic and trade ties. Last month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid a successful visit to Belgium, during which the two sides signed Articles of Association on China-Belgium Direct Equity Investment Fund, which will stimulate and promote the cooperation of Chinese and Belgian small and medium-sized businesses. Right now the Chinese government is expecting the visit of Your Royal Highness leading a Belgian business delegation. There is no doubt, frequent high-level visits enhance our bilateral relationship, and set up a solid foundation for further development of economic and trade cooperation between our two countries. Please allow me to take this opportunity to express my thanks to Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, other members of the royal family, and to all friends who have contributed to the sound development of the bilateral relationship and commercial cooperation.

Both China and Belgium are influential nations in the world. China is the world's largest developing country, and Belgium is an important developed country. Our two nations are highly complementary in terms of economic structure and level of development, and share a huge potential for further bilateral cooperation. I believe that, so long as the two countries make joint efforts, take an active and constructive attitude in our cooperation based on equality and mutual benefit, the commercial ties between China and Belgium will have a better future.

Let's work together for a stronger relationship, and for the happiness and prosperity of the Chinese and Belgian people.

Thank you!

June 7,2004

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