Belt and Road forum strengthens trade ties, sounds call against protectionism

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-17 00:19:12|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, foreign delegation heads and guests pose for a group photo at the Leaders' Roundtable Summit of the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation at Yanqi Lake International Convention Center in Beijing, capital of China, May 15, 2017. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, May 16 (Xinhua) -- The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) concluded here Monday, and officials and experts said the forum has strengthened international trade ties and sounded a call against protectionism.

The forum has strengthened international trade ties and sought new channels of distributing goods to bring about mutual benefit for all, said Ignacio Martinez Cortes, head of the Research Laboratory for Trade, Economy and Business.

"It is also a call against protectionism," Martinez Cortes said in an interview with Xinhua in Mexico.

China's new commercial strategy will allow Latin America and the Caribbean to join this drive of "opening up, inclusiveness and mutual benefits," said the Mexican expert on China affairs when talking about the two-day forum held in Beijing.

The Belt and Road Initiative breaks with both regionalism and corporate-driven global supply chains and will benefit Latin America in the two fields of raw materials and added-value technologies, he said.

The initiative "is the gateway" to international free trade and sustainable development, and also "more focused on investment, infrastructure and development, instead of just on trade," he said.

"Through this initiative, China is offering new channels, which is focused on strengthening partnerships and on the success of sustainable development," the expert said.

The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with an aim to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond ancient trade routes.

"In his opening speech President Xi highlighted the importance of infrastructure investment both from a historical and contemporary point of view," said Marius Schad, an emerging market analyst of HSH Nordbank.

"The forum serves as a multilateral platform to bring the countries and organizations around the Belt and Road Initiative together and will intensify their cooperation," Schad said.

He quoted Xi's use of a well-known Chinese proverb that says it takes many small steps to cover a journey. "The initiative targets the benefits of infrastructure spending and its role for economic prosperity," the analyst said.

"But only their implementation and finalization will foster economic growth. Therefore, a consequent implementation of infrastructure investments, cross-border cooperation and convincing multilateral commitments are essential for long-term success," Schad said.

"Consequently, the next steps within the Belt and Road Initiative are expected to center around the realization of concrete projects," he added.

The forum was an important milestone in the global popularization and implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, said Gerishon Ikiara, a lecturer of international economics at the University of Nairobi.

The joint communique made at the end of the forum highlighted the importance of the forum in the implementation of the initiative, he said.

The forum was a major boost to the Belt and Road Initiative in terms of gathering international support for it. One of the outcomes of the forum was the broad agreement from the participants that the Belt and Road project was an important platform for rapid global infrastructural and trade development where all countries can participate, contribute and benefit as equals, he said.

This indicated that the forum participants appreciated the fact that the initiative, though started by China, allows many countries to participate and contribute in various ways so that all participants will benefit from it, he said.

The participants agreed to promote international cooperation on the implementation of providing financial, technological and other resources required in the implementation of the mega projects under the initiative, such as the development of transport links via waterways, railways, roads and others.

The forum participants also agreed that they would jointly try to deal with challenges facing the global economy, he said.

The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to make tremendous gains from its ongoing and expanded implementation, he said. Africa has suffered greatly from poor and inefficient infrastructure which has rendered Africa a weak partner in global trade.

Currently, Africa accounts for less than 3 percent of global trade largely due to poor and inadequate infrastructure which makes the country's exports lack global competitiveness due to high unit costs of exports and imports, he said.

The projected expansion and modernization of land and sea routes are expected to change this, Ikiara said, adding that already modernized ports in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and other parts of the continent are having a visibly significant impact.

The rapidly increasing railway transportation through the development of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) projects mainly supported by China in countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, which are participants in the Belt and Road Initiative, is demonstrating the transport revolution to be witnessed in Africa in the coming decade.

The Ethiopian SGR is already operational while phase one of the Kenyan SGR, Mombasa to Nairobi, is scheduled to be launched on June 1, he said.

Africa is expected to benefit from increased trade opportunities.

Over 100 countries and international development organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund participated in the forum in Beijing.

This sharp increase in the number of countries participating in the initiative will open more opportunities for trade, availability of financial resources and technical capacities required for faster implementation of the related infrastructural projects, he said.

It is expected that the Beijing forum will lead to more of these resources for Africa, he said.

Africa is also expected to benefit considerably from China's pledged resources in the coming years. Other benefits are China's supported financing of anti-poverty and improved health care projects, he added.

As the forum concluded in Beijing on Monday, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the BRF, said that Ukraine is willing to deepen all-round cooperation with China.

Ukraine and China enjoy vast opportunities for expanding their cooperation in such fields as aircraft construction, machine building, space and agriculture, Kubiv was quoted by his press service as saying during the meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai in Beijing.

The just-concluded BRF has again demonstrated China's commitment to building an open economy, ensuring free and inclusive trade worldwide and sharing the benefits with other countries.

KEY WORDS: Belt and Road Forum