China and Albania agreed on Monday to enhance cooperation in areas of infrastructure, production capacity, tourism and agriculture under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative and the 16+1 mechanism featuring China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries cooperation.
The pledge came as Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli paid a visit to the Balkan country. Hailing the geographic advantage of Albania in southeast Europe, Zhang said Albania is a major country along the Belt and Road.
"China is willing to conduct more substantial cooperation with Albania taking the country's features and actual needs into consideration under the Belt and Road Initiative and the 16+1 mechanism," Zhang said during his meeting with Albanian President Bujar Nishani on Monday.
He encouraged the two countries to speed up the negotiation and signing of an inter-governmental MOU on the Belt and Road initiative to better plan and guide bilateral cooperation so as to yield more fruitful results.
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trading routes, leading to mutually beneficial economic outcomes for every nation it reaches.
China would like to align its development strategy with that of Albania and conducted in-depth discussions on projects, measures and effects of cooperation to realize common development, Zhang said during his talks with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Monday.
He called on both countries to expand scales of the two-way trade and investment. China will further expand the import of Albanian products with comparative advantages such as olive oil, and encourage Chinese enterprises' investment in Albania, Zhang added.
China would like to take an active part in Albanian major infrastructural and energy projects such as roads, hydro-electric power stations and economic development zones, and strengthen cooperation on cultural and people-to-people exchanges, film-making, education and tourism, the Chinese vice premier said.
Speaking highly of Chinese achievements and its role in the international affairs, Nishani said a sound Albania-China relationship is of special importance to his country.
Albania expects to see greater contribution China will make to the world economy and the prosperity of the Balkan region, the Albanian president said.
He affirmed that Albania will firmly adhere to the one-China policy and would like to lift bilateral ties to a higher level through deepening cooperation.
Albania forged diplomatic ties with China on Nov. 23, 1949, some one month later after the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is one the earliest countries to establish diplomatic ties with China.
According to statistics from Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the bilateral trade volume reached 636 million U.S. dollars in 2016, up 13.9 percent year on year. Currently, China is Albania's major trade partner and main investment source.
Regarding the 16+1 cooperation, a platform created in April 2012 by China and 16 CEE countries, Zhang said China appreciates Albania's long-term support to the mechanism and expects to see the its leader's attendance at this year's 16+1 leaders' meeting to be held in Hungary.
China is ready to implement the consensus reached at the 16+1 leaders' meeting in Riga, Latvia last November to deepen mechanism construction on economy and trade, education, science and technology, culture, forestry, agriculture, and local governments, as well enhance cooperation on logistics, e-commerce, small and medium enterprises and environment so as to let the 16+1 cooperation benefit more people in China and the CEE countries, Zhang said.
Rama said Albania is looking forward to the cooperation with China and welcomes more Chinese enterprises in the country. He expressed the Albanian side's hope that the two countries can find cooperation projects that may yield results soon under the Belt and Road Initiative and 16+1 framework.
Zhang arrived in Tirana on Sunday from Ljubljana to continue his five-leg Eurasia tour. His nine-day visit already took him to Moscow and Tallinn, Estonia, and will also take him to Astana, Kazakhstan for bilateral meetings.