Warsaw, 26 April (STA) - Potential Chinese investments in Slovenia's sole commercial port Luka Koper as well as the country's railway infrastructure were among the topics discussed by Slovenian and Chinese representatives at the China-Central and East Europe economic forum in Warsaw on Thursday.
According to Marjan Hribar of the Economy Ministry, the talks at the forum, where Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced a US$10bn credit line for central and eastern Europe to support cooperation projects, were very specific.
Highlighting Luka Koper and the railways, including the planned second track between Koper and Divača, Hribar told the STA that negotiations on these matters had already began a year ago.
A memorandum was signed, a consortium of interested companies established, a response from Slovenia has however been pending, he said.
The response comes now, the official said, adding that Slovenia was open to strengthening cooperation, in trade as well as in the sense of providing an entrance point for Chinese products headed for Europe and vice-versa.
While Prime Minister Janez Janša was among the heads of government to meet Wen Jiabao today, the forum is also attended by Tanja Drobnič of the Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI).
Drobnič announced before the meetings that she expected Chinese representatives to clearly outline their key goals when putting up capital for central European companies.
She said this would be a good starting point for JAPTI's June conference in Portorož, where business will be discussed by Slovenian and Chinese companies.
Trade between Slovenia and China has been relatively modest given China's potential, reaching around EUR 600m last year, which was an 11% increase over the year before. Slovenian exports only accounted for EUR 100m.
There have been no notable Chinese investments in Slovenia. The Chinese have expressed interest for cooperation, in some cases also with ownership capital, especially in telecommunications, energy, infrastructure and transport.
Asked why no Slovenian companies attended the forum, Drobnič said that JAPTI had strived to see 39 companies attending that are already present in China.
The companies decided against it only because of expense concerns, assessing that the mainly political nature of the forum does not warrant the trip.
The companies that are not yet in business with China on the other hand need a different kind of event, at which they will be able to meet potential partners, she explained.
The forum, attended by around 1,000 participants, mostly from China and Poland, opened with addresses by Wen and Polish PM Donald Tusk.
Wen announced a special US$10bn credit line for the region for joint projects in infrastructure, new technologies and green energy. Also planned is a US$500m fund for supporting Chinese companies investing in Central and East Europe.