"16+1 is a format that aims to strengthen Europe", Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said.
The U.S. imposed 25 percent duties Friday on $34 billion worth of imports from China.
China has promised billions of dollars for development projects in the region as part of its Belt and Road strategy to carve out new export markets.
The Sofia summit comes the day after a tariff spat between China and the U.S. escalated into a full-blown trade war as 25-per cent United States duties came into force Friday on $34 billion of Chinese goods.
Countries around the world were affected by the global financial crisis that started in 2008 and which led to banking crises and the so-called "Great Recession", especially in the US and Europe, where growth has improved over the past few years.
However, small markets in central and eastern Europe seem an unlikely target for China's efforts to compensate for lost revenues. EU officials are in part anxious that subsidized Chinese companies will have a market advantage without reciprocal deals for European firms.
Li downplayed such concerns, calling views that China is trying create rifts in Europe by pursuing deals with eastern European countries a "misunderstanding".
Meanwhile Li stressed China's "huge market and potential for growth" Friday, adding that "the global environment might change".
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US President Donald Trump's offensive has led to a major shift in China's attitude towards Europe and the Asian giant is now "sweet-talking to the EU" on trade matters, Godement said.
China and the 16 countries at the summit "need to carefully study how our cooperation can fit in with the European Union laws and regulations", Li said. But outside Hungary, Chinese investments have not met expectations.
Mindful of the need to keep ties with the EU on an even keel, Mr Li had been careful to stress China's support for European integration and rules in trade and procurement.
"The EU is a very important force for peace and stability and prosperity. From now on, we begin carrying out transparent procedures on hybrid projects with the World Bank and EBRD, so that Europe can be calm", Borisov said.
In a world of growing uncertainties, China and Europe see their interests aligned.
In September 2017, Bulgaria signed a memorandum of understanding with Greece on the development of a high-speed railway corridor linking major Greek Aegean ports with Bulgarian ports on the Danube river and the Black Sea coast.
Bulgaria hopes the summit will help secure much-needed funds to build new roads, highways and other infrastructure in eastern Europe, a region that still lags richer states in the western wing of the European Union in terms of development and income.
"First and foremost, our cooperation is of win-win and mutual benefit", Li insisted.