TIRANA, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Albania is interested in further strengthening economic ties with China since there is still great untapped potential that needs to be explored, officials have told Xinhua.
Dorian Ducka, External Adviser to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Investments, said in a written interview that China has become the fastest growing international trade partner of Albania, in both import and export terms, which is beneficial for both countries.
The effects of Made-in-China products becoming global are being felt also among Albanian market consumers, Ducka said.
"We believe that we will see a growing trend into this relation, as at the same time China is becoming one of the largest foreign investors in Albania, with a remarkable share of Albanian FDI for 2016," he said.
"Our wish and hope is that there is still so much untapped potential for Chinese investments in Albania that will bring a boost into deeper and wider economic cooperation," Ducka added.
According to him, under the cooperation of "16+1" mechanism that China has set up to boost cooperation with central and eastern Europe, Albania could be one of the main beneficiaries, especially on energy infrastructure, transport infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and water management resources.
The "16+1" mechanism is a platform created in April 2012 by China and 16 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.
"We desire to see more Chinese investments into the energy sector, especially on bringing more value added up the chain on oil by-products, and along the Gas Pipeline TAP Route for natural gas industries," he said.
Ducka also suggested that Chinese investors could make a difference through investments into the financial services such as banking and insurance companies, where Albania could benefit more also from accessing Chinese capital, both the government and the businesses.
The internationalization of the Chinese currency Renminbi could be an opportunity for Albania to maximize and optimize its potential by partnering with the world economic power such as China, Ducka said.
He also said that Albania and its government are looking forward to an upcoming visit by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli with particular interest.
Zhang will visit Estonia, Slovenia, Albania, and attend meetings in Russia and Kazakhstan from April 11 to 19.
The Albanian government is very keen on this visit as it is a sign of economic and political relations reaching new levels of cooperation, he said.
He also hailed the Belt and Road initiative, considering it a golden opportunity not only for Albania but for whole East Europe to attract more Chinese investment and build stronger political and diplomatic relations with China.
Gjergj Buxhuku, general manager of Albanian Konfindustria and also an economic expert, told Xinhua that Albania and China needed to revive economic and trade relations.
Konfindustria, or the Confederation of the Albanian Industries, is the instituion that regroups the interests of the production and service companies in Albania.
The economic relations between the two countries are historical and they have almost been never interrupted, even during the period of the dramatic changes to the system in Albania, Buxhuku said.
According to him, recognition and friendship between the two countries is important for the cooperation of the businesses.
In this aspect, he said the friendship between the two peoples has been deep-rooted while he suggested that both countries needed to take the trade and economic relations to another level.
"We have present in Albania not only traders and the Chinese brand equipment, but also the presence of important investors in strategic sectors of the Albanian economy, such as the case of the oil company Bankers Petroleum and Tirana International Airport, TIA which are now run by Chinese companies," Buxhuku said.
He added that the necessity for promoting Chinese strategic investments had been directly requested by the state authorities of Albania in the First Albania and China Economic Forum organized by AlbKonfindustria in 2012 as part of Technology & Investments Expo.
"We should be pleased about this positive development and this strong basis for the deepening of economic relations between Albania and China," he underlined.
Buxhuku said the requirements of Albanian industries for Chinese products and technology have been steadily increasing.
"The time has come to understand that Chinese products are competitive not only in price, but also for the high quality of technology they offer. This has a great value for all sectors of the economy and the public," he noted.
However, there is still much to be done to get to know better each other's needs and opportunities in the field of business and trade exchanges, he said.
In his view, Albania could be important for Chinese investments also in terms of regional approach and in terms of closer economic and trade relations with the European Union.
Albania can also serve as a good entry gate of Chinese products in the rich markets of these countries and in the implementation of important projects in road infrastructure, railway, port, gas, electricity, etc, Buxhuku said.
He expressed the belief that business cooperation between the two countries will grow given that China has long been one of the main trading partners of Albania.