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25. 8. 2017

Start of the Agro-Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum between China and Central and Eastern European Countries at Brdo pri Kranju

Brdo pri Kranju, 25 August 2017 - The 12th Agro-Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, entitled "The role of agri-food value chains at the local and global levels" started today at the Congress Centre in Brdo pri Kranju. The forum is being attended by ministers and their deputies from the 16+1 countries, including the Minister of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China, Han Changfu, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry of Bulgaria, Rumen Porodzanov, the country heading the 16+1 initiative on agriculture, and the current President of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Minister of Rural Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, Tarmo Tamm. The Forum was opened by the host, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Dejan Židan, who in his address stressed that cooperation within the 16+1 initiative is an opportunity for all, adding that he is convinced that our views on the chosen topic will contribute to the better understanding of situations and needs in our countries. Upon the conclusion of the Ministerial Meeting, a joint declaration between China and Central and Eastern European Countries was signed. On the sidelines of the forum, several bilateral meetings of the countries participating in the Brdo Forum will be held.

The conference was preceded by the opening of an exhibition on karstology. The Slovenian Karst Research Institute has cooperated with its Chinese counterpart in Kunming for 20 years, specifically in the area of joint karst research, and it has acted as one of the leading international research and education centres. At the Karstology Institute in Kunming, there are four Slovenian scientists who are members of the Institute's 14-member senate. Minister Dejan Židan used the occasion to highlight that we must be aware of the fact that bridges between people and countries are very often built by people acting on behalf of science. "Their common language is their profession and their work is an important cornerstone of successful development and progress.”

 

In the introductory part of the forum, the ministers and their deputies were addressed by the Deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia, Minister of Agriculture Dejan Židan, who stressed the importance of the role of the international trade and agri-food chain on the global and local levels, since the efficient performance of food chains is of great importance for agricultural producers in this chain. He noted in particular that "trade in agricultural products and foodstuffs plays an important part in reducing poverty, ensuring food security and encouraging sustainable use of natural resources. This role is particularly important at a time when the number of hungry people in the world is on the increase; according to the data of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, every ninth inhabitant of the Earth is hungry. And the consequences of climate change are increasingly pronounced.” Minister Židan called on the need to prepare an economic model that will function for all, and which will allow us to establish a balance between free markets on the one hand and the concerns of citizens over the negative consequences of globalisation on the other. We must ensure that everyone will benefit from international trade and further liberalisation, and that special attention will be devoted to those who will have to adapt to new conditions and changes. In closing, the Minister highlighted the issue of unfair trading practices which have been recorded in Slovenia and elsewhere in Europe and in the world; in the Minister's opinion, the reason for these practices is a high trade concentration.

 

In his speech the Chinese Minister of Agriculture, Han Changfu, underscored the importance of food production, since China encompasses 22% of the world population. The Minister stressed the international role played by China, as the People's Republic of China imports and exports a lot of goods, including to the 16+1 countries. He proposed to the participants that activities aimed at ensuring safe food should be implemented, whereby open political dialogues should be established. The Minister also stressed the need to reinforce investment cooperation and to strengthen brands of agricultural products. The Chinese Minister called for enhanced logistics services, since there is interest in having more food products in the Chinese market from the 16+1 countries, and enhanced cooperation in tourism, since an increased number of Chinese people are travelling abroad, including to the 16+1 countries. In conclusion, Minister Changfu reiterated the Chinese support for the Slovenian initiative for the proclamation of World Bee Day.

 

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry of Bulgaria, Rumen Porodzanov, the country heading the 16+1 coordination on agriculture, said that several coordinating mechanisms had been set up to enhance cooperation between the 17 countries. Some of the countries have already set up their pavilions in China; however, it was agreed to set up a demonstration zone in Bulgaria and to boost research activities.

 

Upon the conclusion of the Ministerial Meeting, a joint declaration between China and Central and Eastern European Countries was signed, in which Ministers and their Deputies agree that trade in agricultural products and foodstuffs is an important factor in reducing poverty, ensuring food security and maintaining sustainable use of natural resources, which are also identified sustainable development goals. 

 

One of the main objectives of the 16+1 initiative is to accelerate political and economic cooperation between the People's Republic of China and Central and Eastern European Countries. This also applies to the agriculture sector, in which particular emphasis is placed on the further development and expansion of agri-food trade, and strengthened cooperation in the area of research and development and the exchange of good practices in relation to sustainable development of our agricultural and food processing sectors. 

 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia as host of the 12th Agro-Trade Forum between the People's Republic of China and Central and Eastern European Countries proposed that the issues related to international trade, in particular to the role of agri-food chains at the local and global levels, should be addressed. The participating countries were invited to present their views on joint activities on the national and international levels by means of which the conditions for fair and transparent global trade would further be improved, and better functioning of the food supply chain facilitated.

 

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