BEIJING – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met here Tuesday with Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, who praised the economic reforms undertaken by Spain and said he is counting on an increase in bilateral investments.
At the meeting in Beijing, Wen presented Zapatero with a list of ways to substantially improve his country’s relations with Spain, Spanish government officials said.
Wen stressed the need to “increase Spanish investments in China in renewable energy,” in which Spain plays a leading role worldwide and is already collaborating with Chinese companies.
Other possible areas of cooperation, according to Wen, are in aerospace technology and biotechnology.
The Chinese prime minister recalled that the first world leader he called last spring when the sovereign debt crisis exploded was Zapatero, and on Tuesday praised the measures adopted by the Spanish government to emerge from the recession.
It has been shown, according to the Chinese leader, that these measures have succeeded in improving Spain’s economic situation and in regaining the trust of world markets.
At the same time, Wen spoke of the importance of improving cultural relations, to which Zapatero responded that work is going ahead for the opening of a Chinese cultural center in Spain and “for the consolidation of the Cervantes Institute in Shanghai.”
The Spaniard also said that it is important to perfect the work being done by the bilateral commission on economic and trade matters, recalling that the next meeting of the panel will be in October and that there, for the first time, tourism will be included.
Zapatero promised Wen his support in strengthening relations between China and the European Union and in establishing policies that make it easier for Chinese to get visas for travel to Spain and other European countries.
Zapatero’s meeting with Wen ended a busy day in Beijing that began with a meeting of the visiting prime minister with tourism executives at the residence of the Spanish ambassador.
At that meeting, with the goal of boosting Chinese tourism to Spain in mind, the executives noted that events like Spain’s victory last month in the soccer World Cup and the Shanghai World Expo 2010 – where the Spanish pavilion is one of the most visited – have piqued Chinese citizens’ interest in visiting Spain.
The meeting had a particular importance because, according to the World Tourism Organization, the Chinese will be the world’s leading international travelers by 2020, to the extent that middle class incomes rise and procedures for getting visas to visit other nations are simplified.
Madrid’s goal in the short term is to triple the number of 90,000 Chinese tourists who visit Spain each year, and Zapatero said Tuesday he was betting on a new plan that promotes Spanish cultural and ecotourism destinations rather than the traditional model of sun, sea and sand.
For now, Spain ranks behind France, Germany and Britain as a favored destination for Chinese travelers headed to Europe, though the Iberian nation is the world’s No. 2 tourist destination overall. EFE