The 7th 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 key issues on China-Europe economic relations.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in his opening speech that China is of special importance to Germany as well as to the whole of Europe, adding that the two countries have built a very successful partnership in the last four decades.

He said Germany continues to be China’s most important partner in Europe and has opted 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 also the honorary chairman of the conference this year.

In today’s world, there is no country that can master all these new challenges alone, he said.

“This is why we must intensify the strategic partnership with China in all areas, in politics and culture, as well as in economy and civil society.”

The summit scheduled for Nov. 23 and 24 in the northern German city of Hamburg will include discussions, keynote speeches and panel meetings focusing on such topics as the fallout from the Brexit, China’s economic transition, the Belt and Road Initiative and boosting efficiency in industrial manufacturing.

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 United Kingdom’s vote for Brexit both shake and shape our bilateral economic relations.”

Eye-to-eye exchange and open discussions were therefore particularly important, he added.

Initiated by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce in 2004, the biennial summit serves as an important platform for discussing China-EU economic cooperation.