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China’s new Silk Road promises trade and riches, with President Xi at helm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and 29 other heads of state on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to build an open economy and ensure free and inclusive trade, under the ambitious Belt and Road initiative led by Beijing.

As a two-day summit on the project in Beijing wound up, the 30 nations also agreed to promote a rules-based, non-discriminatory trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core and to oppose protectionism, according to a joint communique signed by their leaders.

In the communique, China and other nations underlined the importance of expanding trade and investment based on a level playing field.

“It is our hope through the Belt and Road development, we will unleash new economic forces for global growth, build new platforms for global development, and rebalance economic globalization so mankind will move closer to a community of common destiny,” Xi said at the close of the event.

The inclusive tone of China’s Belt and Road push stands in stark contrast to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, which included the scrapping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a regional trade pact involving Pacific Rim countries but excluding China.

Xi on Sunday pledged $124 billion for the new “Silk Road”, which aims to bolster China’s global leadership ambitions by building infrastructure and trade links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

Some Western diplomats have expressed unease about the initiative, seeing it as an attempt to promote Chinese influence globally. They are also concerned about transparency and access for foreign companies.

Germany said its firms were willing to support the Belt and Road initiative, but more transparency was needed.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told Reuters on Monday that EU member states would not be signing ministerial statements connected to the summit, though he downplayed the significance.

“But it’s not an issue. The event, what Chinese authorities have organized here, and the joint understanding of what should be done and what must be done, is very positive.”

Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said on Sunday Canberra was receptive to exploring commercial opportunities presented by the initiative, but any decisions would remain incumbent on national interest.

India refused to send an official delegation to Beijing, reflecting displeasure with China for developing a $57 billion trade corridor through Pakistan that also crosses the disputed territory of Kashmir.

 

 

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