Austria expects more infrastructure co-op with China under B&R Initiative: minister

Updated 2018-04-08 13:45:20 Xinhua

Austrian Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Margarete Schrambock receives an interview with Xinhua in Vienna, Austria, on April 4, 2018. (Xinhua/Pan Xu)

A rare collective visit by the Austrian heads of state and government to China is expected to generate multiple agreements on economy cooperation, and progress in future collaboration over infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, an Austrian minister has told Xinhua.

In an interview with Xinhua in Vienna, Austrian Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Margarete Schrambock said her country and China are expected to sign two key cooperation agreements under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Leading a 250-strong delegation of business representatives, cultural and scientific delegates as well as federal ministers, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have set a diplomatic record in Austria's modern history with their first joint visit to China in the coming days.

The Belt and Road Initiative will be high on the agenda as Van der Bellen and Kurz visit Beijing, Schrambock said.

The initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to create greater trade, infrastructure and people-to-people links between Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond by reviving and expanding the ancient Silk Road routes. The modern version comprises an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

"I think we need more discussions on silk road (project). We are very interested in, for example, becoming the end-point of the railway," she said, referring to the much-anticipated high-speed rail line from Belgrade to Budapest.

Austria, she said, is also interested in having cooperation with China on China-Europe freight train service and China-Europe land-sea express route.

The China-Europe rail service is considered a significant part of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is expected to boost trade between China and Europe, China's largest trading partner.

To this point, China Railway Express has been running between China and Europe, however, no train has yet to arrive in Austria. China-Europe land-sea express route is also expecting a breakthrough in cooperation with Austria.

Schrambock also noted that current Austrian coalition government had just assumed office last December, Austria and China are just starting discussions over the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation.

Schrambock, who had spent 22 years on the IT industry, had also worked with Chinese companies, including Chinese tech giant Huawei. She sees the silk road not only a physical road, but also as a digital one, saying that it is important for both nations to cooperate over e-commerce.

It is important, she said, for digital companies on both sides to work together, and as both countries have high levels of innovations in this field, there are opportunities for cooperation.

There will also be agreements on trade and on e-commerce, and Austrian products can reach Chinese consumers easier, she said.

Around 650 Austrian companies are doing business in China, she said. A total of 30 Austrian companies are expected to sign agreements with Chinese companies that will be worth around 1.5 billion euros (1.8 billion U.S. dollars), according to the minister.

She said her country welcomes investment by Chinese companies. Austria is at the heart of Europe, geographically seen as a bridge between western and eastern European states.

While the two countries differ greatly in size, Schrambock said China, as the world's second-largest economy and Austria's most important trading partner in Asia, has undoubtedly strong prospects for the future.

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