Interview: Leading economist calls for Australian study into Belt and Road opportunities

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-05 17:59:10|Editor: An
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by Matt Goss, Xu Haijing

CANBERRA, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Leading Australian economist Peter Drysdale, head of the East Asia Bureau of Economic Research at the Australian National University (ANU), has called for a bilateral study of the opportunities offered by the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

In an interview with Xinhua, Drysdale, co-author of the Australia-China Joint Economic Report, echoed the proposals made in the report to establish a high-level Australia-China Commission to find ways to advance bilateral economic and trade relations.

The report was delivered to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in August 2016.

A forum was held in Beijing in August at which economists from both countries discussed proposals listed in the report, including the Australia-China Commission, the Belt and Road Initiative, foreign investment policies, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.

Drysdale said that the high-level bilateral study of Belt and Road Initiative opportunities should investigate "how Australia and China can best cooperate in major bilateral and third country infrastructure projects."

"Belt and Road offers an invitation to define the terms of engagement with China in this area and that is extremely important," Drysdale told Xinhua.

"It will not only enhance regional integration, but will help push back on protectionism globally."

China is Australia's largest bilateral partner with trade between the two countries worth around 120 billion U.S. dollars annually.

Roger Montgomery, founder and chief investment officer of the Montgomery Fund, warns in an article published on The Australian on Tuesday that countries should not underestimate China's economic power.

He quoted Geoff Wade, a researcher at the Australian Parliamentary Library, who said that the Belt and Road Initiative ties the two ends of Eurasia as well as Africa and Oceania.

"How policymakers respond to China will determine the future for everyone," he said.

Proposed by China in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative is aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of Silk Road.

Drysdale obviously agrees with Montgomery in terms of China's economic significance to Australia.

He's been reiterating the need for an Australia-China Commission to "fund and promote high level policy, research and other exchanges and engaging support from across the community."

Drysdale said a joint task force should begin to work on the commission immediately with work taking "at a minimum two to three years."

"It would mean a huge elevation in the status and deepening of the (Australia-China) relationship over time."