(Nov. 10, 2016) On November 5, 2016, China and the Slovak Republic concluded a memorandum to strengthen their relationship in the area of customs duties, with the goal of boosting bilateral trade. (Slovakia, China Sign Memorandum on Customs Duties Aimed to Accelerate Bilateral Trade, NEWS NOW (Nov. 6, 2016).) According to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Dana Meager, two years of work went into concluding the memorandum. (Id.) Meager signed the document following a meeting with Chinese officials and the heads of government of central and eastern European nations, in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
The signing of the memorandum followed the cancellation by China of a bilateral meeting that had been scheduled to take place immediately before the Riga meeting between Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and the Chinese delegation; the Chinese have thus far not cited a reason for this cancellation. (Chinese Cancel Fico Talks with Before [sic] Riga, Sign Memo, SPECTATOR (Nov. 7, 2016).) The Riga meetings follow several previous sessions between Chinese officials and leaders from eastern and central Europe, beginning in 2011 and including a session held in Suzhou, China, a year ago. The focus has been on cooperation in transit, education, innovation, science, research, and tourism. The Chinese have proposed emphasis on economic cooperation in infrastructure, advanced technology in general, and environmentally friendly technology in particular. (Id.)
That meeting included, in addition to China and the Slovak Republic, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. (Chinese Cancel Fico Talks with Before [sic] Riga, Sign Memo,) Meager noted that “[i]nfrastructure isn’t enough, we also need a legislative basis and customs regulations that will allow us to ensure that exchanges between Europe and Asia are rapid and at the same time that goods are transported from one continent to another safely.” (Slovakia, China Sign Memorandum on Customs Duties Aimed to Accelerate Bilateral Trade, supra.) Meager also discussed the importance of freight rail via the Trans-Siberian Railway to the efficiency of trade between China and Europe and said that transit through such countries as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine is also key. The Slovak Republic therefore arranged a meeting of officials from railway and financial bodies from the nations along the route. Meager said they had conversed about “our collaboration, potential problems, resolving cases in which violations of the law may take place.” (Id.)