Photo: Christian Kern, former Chancellor of Austria, gives an exclusive interview to Xinhua Silk Road during the 2019 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, May 30. (photo by Hu Ke)
BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Austrian enterprises are keen to participate in the Belt and Road construction, against the background of steady growth of trade between Austria and China, Christian Kern, former Chancellor of Austria, told Xinhua Silk Road in an exclusive interview during the 2019 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) on Thursday.
Christian Kern, now chairman of the Advisory Board of Austrian-Chinese Business Association, stated that under the circumstances of the steady development of economic and trade relations between the two countries, Austrian enterprises are full of confidence in China's economic prospects.
According to the latest statistics from the Statistik Austria, trade between Austria and China exceeded 13 billion euros for the first time in 2018 to stand at 13.18 billion euros, hitting a record high for the fourth consecutive year.
Data shows that China accounted for 4.3 percent of Austria's total foreign trade and remained its fifth largest trading partner, third largest source of import and tenth largest export market.
"In the past, Europe believed that China was a country with cheap labor, but now things have changed completely. China has many outstanding enterprises in the field of science and technology and they are now leaders in the world, such as Huawei, BYD, and CATL," said Christian Kern.
He noted that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is crucially important and Austria has already benefited from it. Under the BRI, Austria has increasingly shown its unique geographical advantages. A large number of China-Europe freight trains have transported goods to other places of Europe through Austria, which has driven the development of the local logistics industry and increased job opportunities.
When talking about people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, Christian Kern said that in recent years, more and more Chinese tourists have visited Austria, and it has played a positive role in promoting the development of local tourism. He believed that in the future, the Austrian government will introduce some favorable policies to attract tourists from China, which is an important source of tourists in Austria.
Statistics from the Austrian National Tourist Office show that about 973,000 Chinese tourists visited Austria last year, up 8 percent from 2017. It is worth noting that in the past 10 years, the number of Chinese tourists in Austria has grown sixfold.
CIFTIS this year highlights the digitalization and intelligence, with some achievements in the application of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G displayed.
Speaking of the 5G, Christian Kern said that at present, Austria has also faced many options in the 5G field. There will be a lot of investment in this field. Austria welcomes Chinese companies to invest in the country, Kern added. (Contributed by Hu Pingchao, firstname.lastname@example.org)