China views Portugal as an “important partner” in their cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese President Xi Jinping told Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Monday.

Rebelo de Sousa, who is on a state visit to China, attended the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing last week.

Referring to his state visit to Portugal in December 2018, President Xi said the mutual visits by the two heads of state within half a year have shown the high-level China-Portugal relations.

The Chinese and Portuguese Governments signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly advancing the construction of the Belt and Road during Xi’s Portugal trip last year.

Meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, Xi called on the two sides to further cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, energy, infrastructure and electric vehicles.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to China, Xi noted, adding that Macao has become a bridge for the long-term friendly cooperation between China and Portugal.

Year 2019 also marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Portugal diplomatic relations. Rebelo de Sousa called for transforming the long-term friendship between the two countries to a future-oriented partnership.

His participation in the Second BRF demonstrated Portugal’s firm support for the BRI, Rebelo de Sousa said, noting that his country is willing to make joint efforts with China to enhance economic, trade, investment and scientific and technological cooperation as well as cultural ties.

Portugal is also willing to work with China to expand third-market cooperation, he added.

The two leaders witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation deals after their talks.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met with the Portuguese president on Monday. Proposed by Xi in 2013, the BRI comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt & the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, and aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.