BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Belt and Road Initiative is driving China's opening-up efforts and unimpeded trade will be a key topic at the Belt and Road forum for international cooperation to be held in Beijing this May, a senior Chinese trade official said Tuesday.
China has pushed forward the Belt and Road Initiative with solid progress, and stepped up policy coordination with countries along the Belt and Road in 2016, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told reporters Tuesday.
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
In the spirit of regional connectivity, China has initiated railway, road, civil aviation, electricity and telecommunications projects across the "Belt and Road," Gao told reporters.
Despite anemic growth of global market demand, China's combined imports and exports with countries along the Belt and Road topped 6.3 trillion yuan (about 916 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016, up 0.6 percent from 2015, Gao said.
The initiative offers one solution to global economic difficulties and uncertainties worsened by a sluggish recovery, downturns in trade and investment, a lack of growth momentum and setbacks in globalization, economists believed.
Chinese businesses helped build 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in about 20 countries along the Belt and Road with a combined investment surpassing 18.5 billion dollars, generating nearly 1.1 billion dollars in tax revenue and about 180,000 jobs in those countries, Gao said.
The Belt and Road has delivered promising early results that have benefited other countries and regions -- showing the great development potential of the initiative, he said.
The Belt and Road forum for international cooperation will be held in Beijing in May.
"This will be the first high-level international forum on the Belt and Road," said Gao.
The event is important to address regional and global economic problems and to facilitate more invigorated, inclusive and sustainable economic globalization, he stressed.
China said it will press ahead with the Belt and Road Initiative as one of three major strategies, along with Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei coordinated development and the Yangtze River Economic Belt Initiative, according to a statement issued after the Central Economic Work Conference held in December 2016, during which Chinese leaders and senior officials gathered to map out priorities for 2017.