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Wen Meets East European Leaders

China is hoping to tap into Poland's gas shale riches.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao meets with more than a dozen prime ministers from eastern and southern Europe later today at a business forum in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

China is eager to expand its business ties with the region in order, analysts say, to access even more lucrative markets further west in Europe.

According to Chinese media, Wen is expected to announce a billion-euro Chinese investment fund for eastern and southern Europe.

"Another important task of my current visit is to consolidate China's traditional friendship with Central an East European countries, to have closer relationship and seek common development. Prime Minister [Donald] Tusk and the government of Poland have made huge progress for the preparation of the leaders meeting and economic forum," Wen said after talks with Polish Prime Minster Donald Tusk on April 25 in the Polish capital.

Wen said China is aiming to double its bilateral trade with Poland over the next five years.

Trade between the two countries amounted to 14.6 billion euros in 2011, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

However, Chinese exports to Poland are ten time higher than Polish exports to China.

Wen agreed with Tusk on the need to reduce Poland's large trade deficit with China.

Chinese officials say Beijing is interested in the Polish banking, mining, power and transport sectors.

Tusk said both countries had high hopes for trade cooperation involving gas shale reserves.

"We also talked about Polish-Chinese cooperation on alternative energy sources, including the need to exchange experiences with the excavation of shale gas, because both our countries have high hopes for our very big reserves of this resource," Tusk said.

Poland estimates its shale deposits at 346 billion to 768 billion cubic meters.

Both Poland and China are highly dependent on highly-polluting coal to meet their energy needs.

Wen's visit to Poland is the final leg of his European tour.

Based on Reuters and AFP reporting