The Austrian-Chinese Economic Forum kicked off Monday in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce here in Vienna. Addressing the forum, Austrian Minister of Economy Reinhold Mitterlehner hailed the sound development of bilaterally economic relations between China and Austria. China has shown the strength of a great nation in the face of the current global economic crisis, he said, adding that the two countries have huge potentials for economic and trade cooperation in a wide range of fields, particularly in energy saving and environmental protection. Austria\'s export-based economy mostly depended on the European Union in the past, but is now being adjusted to attach greater importance to overseas markets, including China, Mitterlehner said. Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming also highlighted the potentials for economic cooperation between China and Austria, and suggested the two sides expand the scale of commodity trade, deepen investment cooperation and enhance bilateral cooperation in service trade. He said China welcomes Austrian medium and small enterprises to invest in China and pledges to protect their intellectual rights. Austria\'s mature and effective legal system, favorable location, as well as its advanced technologies in the new energy, environmental protection, garbage disposal and other fields will serve as a good foundation for Sino-Austrian economic and trade cooperation, said Wan Jifei, Chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Some 250 people from the Chinese and Austrian business circles took part in Monday\'s forum.