Li Keqiang is in Sofia for holding the seventh Meeting of Heads of State and Government of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and China, which this year is hosted by Bulgaria.
China has promised billions for development projects in the region as part of its Belt and Road strategy to carve out new export markets, but these deals are coming under greater scrutiny.
"We can probably say that the trade war has officially started", said Chen Feixiang, professor of applied economics at Shanghai Jiaotong University's Antai Colege of Economics and Management. China has no intention to use the "16+1" platform as a geopolitical tool to split the European Union, he said.
During Li's visit to Bulgaria, he will meet with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, and hold talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
Meanwhile Li stressed China's "huge market and potential for growth" Friday, adding that "the worldwide environment might change".
Analysts said he would avoid raising issues that might annoy western European governments. "We would lower overall import tariffs to the Chinese market", he said through an interpreter, without going into details.
More than 1,000 business people from China and central and eastern Europe attended an economic forum alongside the summit, seeking deals in trade, technology, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.
"The meetings have prompted considerable speculation in Brussels and other European capitals that they are a Chinese effort to "divide and rule" Europeans", a December 2017 report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) said.
SOFIA, July 7 ― China will keep to the path of reform and opening up its markets that has lifted its growth, Premier Li Keqiang said today, a day after the United States and China slapped tariffs on US$34 billion (RM137 billion) worth of the other's imports.
In May, the Bulgarian energy ministry said that China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) confirmed its interest in the implementation of the Belene NPP project. Last month, Hungary finalised the construction timetable with China for a Budapest-Belgrade rail link, one of the biggest Chinese-backed infrastructure projects in the region. Countries taking part include European Union members Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and also non-EU states Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The EU will have observer status at the summit.
Shi made the remarks shortly before Li's Germany trip, during which he will also attend the fifth round of inter-governmental consultations between China and Germany.
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