SCIO briefing on 'The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects'

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Xiao Weiming, director general of the Department of General Affairs at the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative;

Song Lihong, director general of the Comprehensive Department at the Ministry of Commerce

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson for the State Council Information Office of China

April 22, 2019

Hu Kaihong:

Thank you, Mr. Xiao. Now, let's welcome Mr. Song to make an introduction.

Song Lihong:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. Today, the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative launched the book "The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects."I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the trade cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, as the former is an important part of the latter. 

Since the proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Ministry of Commerce, guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and fully implementing the Party Central Committee's policy decisions on the initiative, has worked hard to promote trade cooperation between China and other countries along the routes, and made remarkable achievements. These are evident in five aspects.

First, two-way trades were increased continuously. We actively promoted the expansion of mutual market openness of countries along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative, and continued to promote trade facilitation. We improved trade structure, and nurtured new areas of trade growth. We also strengthened trade promotion activities with countries along the routes through comprehensive and special exhibitions. We accelerated the innovation of trade forms, and nurtured new models of business, such as e-commerce. 

Between 2013 and 2018, the imports and exports between China and other countries along the Belt and Road exceeded US$6 trillion, registering an annual increase of 4%, which is higher than the increase in China's total foreign trade. The volume accounted for 27.4% of China's total trade in goods.

Second, two-way investments are developing in an in-depth way. We continue to strengthen the necessary service guarantees and encourage enterprises to invest in relevant Belt and Road countries. While realizing their own development, they can also help the host countries to develop their economy and improve local people's livelihood. At the same time, we continue to relax the permission procedures for foreign investment as part of creating a high-standard business environment, set up 12 free trade pilot zones open to the world, and explore the construction of free trade ports to attract countries along the Belt and Road to invest in China. From 2013 to 2018, Chinese enterprises directly invested more than US$90 billion in countries along the Belt and Road, with an average annual growth rate of 5.2%. The turnover of foreign-contracted projects along the Belt and Road has exceeded US$400 billion, while direct investments in China from Belt and Road countries has exceeded US$40 billion.

Third, big projects have been carried out and are producing their intended results. We, along with relevant parties, have launched a series of cooperation projects to build infrastructure facilities and industrial investment. Some big projects have been carried out as planned, one after another. For example, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway has come into operation; the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge has opened to traffic; the Gwadar Port in Pakistan has acquired the capacity necessary to ensure its complete operation. There are so many such infrastructure facility projects, which have effectively promoted the host countries' economic development and the improvement of local people's livelihoods, making them popular among locals.

We have also actively co-built some economic and trade cooperation zones, which have developed and improved over time. These zones play the following roles: they provide Chinese enterprises with platforms for their overseas investment and development; they provide the host countries with opportunities to learn more from China's experience in using industrial parks to boost economic growth; and they also prove to be effective carriers for industrial cooperation between China and these countries. 

Fourth, the construction of free trade areas has sped up. We have expedited the construction of free trade areas with countries along the route of the Belt and Road, and signed or upgraded the free trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pakistan and other countries and regions. These agreements have provided effective institutional arrangements for the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment between these countries and China.

It is fair to say that a free trade zone network has gradually taken shape along the route of the Belt and Road. In addition, we have also actively promoted regional economic cooperation. We have signed trade and economic cooperation agreements with the Eurasian Economic Union, and the negotiations on regional comprehensive economic partnerships have made positive progress. 

Fifth, the cooperation mechanism has improved. The Ministry of Commerce has built bilateral economic and trade committee as well as joint committee mechanisms with all countries related to the Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, we also have some regional and sub-regional cooperation platforms. We take advantage of these platforms to strengthen communication and coordination on important Belt and Road topics. 

At the same time, to further strengthen the frequency and effects of coordination, we have built work groups on unimpeded economic and trade cooperation, and investment with relevant countries, under the bilateral committees and joint committees. We have created bilateral e-commerce business cooperation mechanisms with 17 countries, and service trade cooperation mechanisms with 14 countries, as well as signed third party market cooperation agreements with Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, etc. All this can be seen in media reports.

Generally speaking, the economic and trade cooperation between China and the countries involved in the BRI have improved greatly. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed six years ago, it has produced remarkable achievements, intensified economic ties, and deepened economic cooperation between China and its partner countries. The initiative has also helped China improve its development through opening-up, and also prompted relevant countries to integrate into regional or even global value chains. This has allowed it to make positive contributions toward the development of economic globalization and the open world economy. Thank you all.

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