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New forces for economic growth
From:Agencies  |  2017-05-16 10:25

President Xi Jinping expressed ambitious hopes for Asian and European governments working closely on finance, law enforcement and a broad range of other issues under a China-led trade initiative as leaders of 30 countries yesterday ended a meeting to promote the effort.

The Belt and Road project calls for expanding trade across Asia, Africa and Europe by investing in ports, railways and other facilities.

Xi said the project has “no political agenda.” He expressed the hope that governments taking part will coordinate policy in areas from finance and law enforcement to technology and education.

“It is our hope that through the Belt and Road development, we will unleash new forces for global economic growth,” Xi said at a brief news conference at a conference center in the hills north of Beijing.

The two-day meeting included President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with the presidents or prime ministers of Italy, Hungary and Greece, as well as most of China’s Asian neighbors.

Britain, France and Germany were represented by finance or trade officials. The US delegation was led by the Asia director of President Donald Trump’s National Security Council.

Xi acknowledged the initiative is in its early stages and faces daunting obstacles.

“One single feather does not make a bird fly high,” the president said.

Xi said China wants the Belt and Road project to improve cooperation in formulating industrial and financial policy, speed up development of infrastructure, make trade and investment flow more easily and improve interaction on education and other “people-to-people ties.”

Other governments welcome Chinese investment in a region that the Asian Development Bank says needs to spend US$7 trillion this decade on ports, railways and other trade-related facilities to keep their economies growing.

Xi said the Belt and Road initiative is meant to be an “open and inclusive platform for development.”

Earlier in the day, the Chinese leader appealed in a speech to visiting foreign leaders to pursue “greater openness and cooperation” and to “reject protectionism.”

Xi urged major multilateral institutions to join the initiative, stressing the importance of rejecting protectionism in seeking global economic growth.

Xi said it was necessary to coordinate policies with the development goals of institutions including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, ASEAN, the African Union and the European Union.

On Sunday, Xi pledged US$124 billion for the new Silk Road which expands links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

“We need to improve policy coordination and reject beggar-thy-neighbor practices,” Xi said. “This is an important lesson that can be drawn from the global financial crisis and is still very relevant to the development of the world economy today,” he said. “We need to seek win-win results through greater openness and cooperation, avoid fragmentation, refrain from setting inhibitive thresholds for cooperation or pursuing exclusive arrangements and reject protectionism.”

Belt and Road is seen as part of China’s answer to the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, a regional trade pact involving Pacific Rim countries, but excluding China.

The TPP, touted by the previous US administration of President Barack Obama, has effectively been killed by Trump.

In contrast, Xi said China’s Belt and Road plan would be inclusive and open to all. He said deep-seated problems in global development had yet to be addressed effectively, with international trade and investment sluggish, and economic globalization encountering headwinds.

“In a world of growing interdependency and challenges, no country can tackle the challenges, also the world’s problems, on its own,” Xi said.

Also yesterday, the Philippine defense minister, who was at the Beijing meeting, said he signed a letter of intent with a Chinese military contractor to purchase weapons for Manila’s army, navy and air force.