Honorary Chairman of the Hamburg Summit "China Meets Europe" and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (2nd L) and Li Yizhong (1st L), chairman of China Federation of Industrial Economics, pose for a photograph after the awarding ceremony of the China-Europe Friendship Award during the seventh Hamburg Summit "China Meets Europe" in Hamburg, northern Germany, on Nov. 23, 2016. The seventh Hamburg Summit "China Meets Europe" opened here on Wednesday, drawing senior officials, entrepreneurs and leading scholars from China and the European Union (EU) to discuss the most important issues in Sino-European economic relations. (Xinihua/Shan Yuqi)
HAMBURG, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- The seventh Hamburg Summit "China Meets Europe" opened here on Wednesday, drawing senior officials, entrepreneurs and leading scholars from China and the European Union (EU) to discuss the most important issues in Sino-European economic relations.
About 550 participants from China and Europe gathered at the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday to exchange views through 10 panel discussions and keynote speeches.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in his opening speech that China was of special importance to Germany as well as to the whole of Europe, adding that China and Germany had built a very successful partnership in the last four decades.
He said Germany continued to be China's most important partner in Europe, with Germany opting for political cooperation with China over recent decades.
"Cooperation, rather than confrontation, should characterize the relationships between countries, even when their political and economic systems differ," said Schroeder, who was made honorary chairman of the conference this year and received the China-Europe Friendship Award on Wednesday in recognition of his outstanding achievements in cultivating relations with China.
In today's world, there is no country that can master all these new challenges alone, he noted. "This is why we must intensify the strategic partnership with China in all areas, in politics and culture, as well as in the economy and civil society."
In his speech, Fritz Horst Melsheimer, president of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, called for an investment treaty between the EU and China as soon as possible within the next year in order to put bilateral economic relations swiftly onto a more solid legal basis.
"China has to master a tremendous economic transformation to make this growth more sustainable," he said, "at the same time, economic stagnation in many European countries and Britain's vote for Brexit both shake and shape our bilateral economic relations."
Exchange and open discussions were therefore particularly important, he added.
Despite sluggish global economic recovery and deep adjustment, China-EU economic and trade relations have deepened through concerted efforts by both sides, said Li Yizhong, chairman of China Federation of Industrial Economics in his opening speech.
Li said, as the two pillars of the global economy, China-EU cooperation has a solid foundation and great potential to bring out the best in each other.
Against the backdrop of global trade downturn, Europe sees service trade as an important driving force to economic growth in the post-crisis era, said Zhao Zhongyi, executive vice president of China Association of Trade in Services (CATIS), adding that as the most important trade partner to each other, China and Europe have great cooperation potential in service trade.
The summit, which is scheduled for Nov. 23 and 24 this year, will deliver discussions, keynote speeches and panel meetings focusing on various topics, such as the fallout from Brexit, China's economic transition, the Belt and Road Initiative, and boosting efficiency in industrial manufacturing.
Initiated by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce in 2004, the biennial summit serves as an important platform for discussing China-EU economic cooperation.