China, Bulgaria sign cultural accords under shadow of US-China trade war

World Today

New agreements for closer cultural ties between Bulgaria and China. The deals were announced during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. But the trip was overshadowed by China’s worsening trade conflict with the U.S.

CGTN’s Aljosa Milenkovic has more.

For the first time in 18 years, a Chinese Premier is in Bulgaria, and there are two reasons behind Li Keqiang’s visit. A meeting with the heads of the government of 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe within the 16+1 format is set for Saturday.

On Friday, he was received by Bulgarian leaders for an official visit to discuss bilateral issues. But at the press conference that followed, the focus quickly turned to the new trade war between the U.S. and China.

“No one will emerge a winner from a trade war,” said Chinese Primier Li Keqiang. “It benefits no one and it will undermine the multilateral free trade process. If one insists on waging a trade war it will hurt others and themselves.”

Bulgaria’s prime minister used the stage to soothe concerns from his EU partners that the 16+1 format and Sofia’s collaboration with China is not aimed against the EU.

“The important message is that the format 16+1 does not divide Europe,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said. “This format is not against other countries. This is not a geopolitical union. It is a format aimed at increasing the GDP and people’s income. That’s why I would like this message to be very clear from Bulgaria to all my colleagues in Europe.”

In the Council of Ministers palace in Sofia, the two leaders attended a signing ceremony for several important agreements between the two sides, including joint work on the Belene Nuclear Power Plant, opening a 1.75 billion US dollar credit line between the development banks of the two countries and agreement between China’s Union Pay credit service and Bulgaria’s domestic credit card system.

Despite the groundbreaking bilateral deals reached and new opportunities opened for both sides on the second day of Premier Li’s visit, it was the trade war ignited by the US that stole the show. Premier Li will attend the 16+1 meeting here in Sofia and will try to solidify good relations with those countries, but the cloud of a trade war with the US will for sure continue to hover over the Bulgarian capital during that meeting.