The United Nations will continue to support economic cooperation among regions along the new Eurasian Continental Bridge, which runs across China from east to west.
UN Resident Coordinator in China Khalid Malik, suggested putting the development of the rail link on the agenda of high-level government dialogue such as the Asia-Europe Conference and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Malik said that this would enable the Continental Bridge to play a strong role in enhancing cooperation between Asia and Europe, and promoting world peace and development.
Malik is participating in a two-day international forum on promoting economic ties among regions along the route, which is also known as the New Silk Road (NSR).
He said countries along the NSR should learn from developed countries’ experiences in road network construction, information service, management and regulations to speed capacity building.
Opening tourism and freeing the movement of visitors, goods and services would create new miracles, he noted.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Chinese government recently initiated a new national project to help local authorities along the Chinese section of the route better participate in intra- and inter-regional trade and economic cooperation, and sustainable tourism.
The UNDP engages in tourism development because tourism has become an engine of economic growth in the world today. Spin-off benefits occur in such areas as trade, investment, labor, technology and culture. Central Asia and western China contain plentiful tourism resources that have yet to be tapped, said Malik.
During the past few years, the UNDP has helped countries along the route establish national coordination mechanisms and has identified transport, transit, customs, trade and investment problems.
Cooperation has been gaining momentum through the years, as evidenced by series of events held in China, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Trade turnover between China and Central Asian countries increased to US$4 billion in 2003, eight times the 1992 figure. China’s investment in the region now exceeds US$1 billion.
The NSR, the cheapest and fastest land rail route from Asia to Europe, starts in the coastal city of Lianyungang and ends at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The 10,900-kilometer-long continental bridge, which was launched on December 1, 1992, has benefited China’s coastal regions. Lianyungang port, for example, now handles over 90 percent of international rail cargo from China’s coastal ports.
In a congratulatory letter to the forum, attended by delegates from 10 Asian and European countries, Vice Premier Wu Yi wrote, “To accelerate the development of and coordination between regions along the New Silk Road will further promote the economic and technical cooperation and cultural exchanges among Eurasian countries.”
Vice Minister of Commerce Wei Jianguo said that the development of the section of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge in China was listed as a priority in the country’s western development strategy at the beginning of this year.
He said trade between Asia and Europe has steadily increased, but goods transported by sea encounter the threat of terrorism. The New Silk Road has thus become an optional link contributing to safe trade between Asia and Europe.
(China Daily August 27, 2004)