The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the governments of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will launch a Silk Road Regional Program (SRRP) to revive traditional economic cooperation in trade, investment and tourism, said Khalid Malik, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in China.
"Regional cooperation is a key to help meet the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and promoting growth and equality," said Malik at a press conference on Thursday after the close of the SRRP launch meeting in Beijing.
The project will encourage public-private partnerships in selected fields such as infrastructure, tourism and hotel development through a Silk Road Investment Forum, an annual or biannual event to attract international and Chinese investment.
Through the project, the UNDP and World Trade Organization will identify eight to 10 cities along the route to award the title of UN Silk Road City to encourage commitment to and long-term planning for the protection of cultural assets.
With a starting fund of US$1 million, the two-year project represents a strategic follow-up phase to an earlier UNDP program, Silk Road Area Development, Phase I.
The SRRP will serve as a link to help the participating countries strengthen connections and cooperation, Malik said.
For example, to encourage utilization of rich tourism resources throughout the area, innovative projects such as the Silk Road multiple-entry visa will be introduced. Initial talks with the governments of the participating countries and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) were held during the meeting, he noted.
Through trade and investment ties, the program will help the Central Asian countries draw economic growth lessons from China, according to Fikret Akcura, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Uzbekistan. "We can achieve new miracles by opening tourism and realizing the free movement of visitors, goods and services," he stated.
China, with its dynamic economy, is keen to revive the historic Silk Road as well to improve trade and transport links with the Central Asian countries, which possess abundant natural resources, said Zhao Yongli, division director of the China International Center for Economic and Technological Exchanges under the Ministry of Commerce.
Trade turnover between China and Central Asia increased to US$4 billion in 2003, eight times the 1992 figure, Zhao said.
(China Daily February 18, 2005)