Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Astana, Kazakhstan, June 9, 2017. (Xinhua/Li Tao)
ASTANA, June 9 (Xinhua) -- China and other member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have achieved positive results in implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, including closer trade ties, stronger mutual investment and increasing joint projects, Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said Friday.
SCO member countries have been key areas to the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, and noticeable progress has been made over the past four years in this course, Zhong said during an interview with major media outlets on the sideline of the SCO Summit held here in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.
Bilateral trade relations have grown closer between China and other SCO member countries, as trade facilitation has been enhanced, Zhong said, noting that China has become the largest trading partner of Russia and Kyrghyzstan.
Mutual investment has been growing steadily, with China's non-financial direct investment in other SCO member countries as of April 2017 amounting to 74.2 billion U.S. dollars and investment in the reverse direction totaling 1.09 billion U.S. dollars, according to Zhong.
He also highlighted the achievements in establishing economic and trade cooperation zones, specifying that China has built a total of 21 such cooperation zones within the territory of the SCO countries, making contributions to expanding local employment and increasing tax incomes.
In addition, a batch of major joint projects have been completed, including the construction of highways, railways, tunnels and electric power plants, which improve the cross-border logistics conditions and promotes the development capacity of the SCO countries, Zhong said.
Last month, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and more than 80 government sectors from other countries and international organizations jointly launched the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China's capital Beijing.
Calling it a significant outcome of the forum which determined the cooperative principles and measures on facilitating the trade flow, Zhong said the initiative was embraced and fully supported by the SCO countries, who specifically spoke highly of the parts of "boosting trade growth", "prospering mutual trade" and "promoting inclusive, sustainable development."
It reflects the common aspiration of the SCO countries in working together to push forward the Belt and Road Initiative, propel economic globalization as well as enhance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, he added.
Speaking of the SCO's prospects in development after the accession of India and Pakistan, Zhong said the expanded "friends circle" of the organization will further enhance its economic strength, improve its international and regional influence, contribute to building a new pattern of connectivity and bring greater potential and impetus into regional economic cooperation.
Noting that China will take over the rotating presidency of the SCO after this summit and host the next summit in June 2018, Zhong said the Chinese Ministry of Commerce will play a full role in coordinating meetings of the SCO economic and trade ministers and implementing outcomes in the economic and trade areas reached in this summit.