August 20, 2019
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China promises New Silk Road will be cleaner and more transparent

By Víctor Escribano y Jesús Centeno

Beijing, Apr 26 (efe-epa).- China has vowed that its New Silk Road initiative will be more transparent and environmentally friendly in a bid to allay concerns over the massive investment project at its second forum on Friday.

Almost 40 world leaders have descended on Beijing for the second Belt and Road Forum, which aims to promote and garner support for President Xi Jinping’s ambitious global trade initiative.

In a speech with more promises than self-criticism, he defended tooth and nail the viability of his star project after skeptics raised concerns about debt issues and China’s growing international influence.

Xi tried to seduce his detractors with a more open China and said the plan is about “jointly meeting the various challenges and risks confronting mankind, and delivering win-win outcomes and common development.”

A total of 37 heads of state and representatives from 150 countries and international organizations attended the opening ceremony on Friday, in which Xi ??did not offer concrete data of the investment planned in the coming years.

He said the initiative is “not an exclusive club, and aims to promote green development. We may launch green infrastructure projects, make green investment, and provide green financing to protect the earth.”

He continued that China has also opted to "fight corruption with zero tolerance" and that all participating companies will have to "comply with international standards."

The Chinese leader wanted to reduce the doubts that his plan has created due to the absence of environmental impact studies, human rights concerns and problems such as the inability of certain countries to face the payment of credits granted by the Asian giant to build large works of infrastructure.

Xi guaranteed the New Silk Road, as the initiative is known, will be "clean, honest and green" and will implement "ecological criteria in the construction of infrastructure, investment and financing."

He vowed that the main objective of the project is "to offer opportunities for development" and "mutual benefit" for those involved.

Although he did not directly address the ongoing trade dispute with the United States, the Chinese president said the initiative "aims to enhance connectivity and practical cooperation."

A number of Latin American countries, including Panama, Bolivia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador and Chile, have already signed up to the initiative to different degrees.

Chilean president Sebastián Piñera highlighted the "very fruitful results" the plan has achieved in its first five years.

"China is making an effort to promote a climate of greater understanding and collaboration between countries," he said, and expressed hope that "things will get better and clearer."

He called for the strengthening of principles such as "free trade, respect for intellectual property, open markets, multilateralism and the need to modernize the WTO (World Trade Organization) to have trade on the basis of rules agreed, and fair competition between countries."

Xi was flanked by allies including Russian president Vladimir Putin and Pakistani leader Imran Khan at the event.

Putin described the project is an opportunity to tackle potential risks from countries intent on launching trade wars.

“It is important to work out an effective response to the risks of fragmentation of the global political, economic and technology space; to the growth of protectionism with frequently used illegitimate unilateral restrictions or, even worse, trade wars, imposed bypassing the UN Security Council being its most dangerous form," he added.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said the project could help countries to reach sustainable development objectives and urged states to make use of the opportunities it offers.

"I see the Belt and Road Initiative as an important space where green principles can be reflected in green action,” he added.

"Countries today not only require the physical roads and bridges to connect people and markets, they need roads and bridges from the unsustainable, fossil-fuelled grey economy to a clean, green, low-carbon energy future."

However, there has been criticism about the scheme from the United States and other Western nations, whose top leaders absented themselves from the forum.

They have argued that the project may become a "debt trap" for the least developed countries that entails their dependence on China, accusation that Beijing today returned to rebut.

In response, Xi guaranteed the sustainability of the project, the financing it offers and the indebtedness it generates, emphasizing that its "special focus" seeks to "reduce poverty, increase employment and increase well-being."

The president also took advantage of the international showcase to face some of the demands on his country from the trade war with the United States, and announced mechanisms to guarantee compliance with international agreements, greater protection for intellectual property and more facilities for the arrival of foreign capital to China.

On Thursday the US government said that China continues to head its "black list" of intellectual property theft and patent violations worldwide.

"The Chinese always fulfill what we promise," he said and announced "a series of important measures" in the economic field.

Its "Special 301" annual report for 2018, the Office of the US Trade Representative Office identified 11 countries that do not "adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property rights or otherwise deny market access to US innovators and creators that rely on protection of their IP rights."

Xi also worked hard to project an image of independence and proactivity, when referring to intellectual property he indicated that "it is not a demand but an inherent requirement to create an innovative country" and vowed that China takes these measures by its "own will."

The forum is due to close on Saturday, which will feature a round table of leaders in which the terms of a possible joint agreement will be discussed. EFE-EPA

vec-jco/rb

Related content

Everything you need to know about China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Madrid desk, Apr 26 (efe-epa).- China has hosted almost 40 world leaders in Beijing for the second Belt and Road Forum, also known as the New Silk Road.

Here is everything you need to know about the ambitious global trade initiative:

What is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)?

The project is a “belt” of land trade routes and a “road” of maritime shipping lanes.

Among its main objectives are to build a new Eurasian land bridge and develop overland infrastructure between China and Mongolia, Russia, Indochina and Asia.

At sea it also aims to improve routes between major ports including between China and Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

How much is it costing?

The project is expected to cost more than $1 trillion and it is believed that China has already invested more than $210 billion into the scheme, mostly in Asia.

Chinese construction companies have also secured around $340 billion in BRI contracts.

Which countries are involved?

BRI stretches from South-east Asia to Eastern Europe and Africa and includes 71 countries, amounting to half the global population and a quarter of the total world GDP.

Notable countries which China lists as having a connection to the initiative so far include Austria, Israel, New Zealand and Italy, which was the first developed economy to sign up.

Other nations include: Senegal, Libya, Tunisia, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, the Philippines, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Singapore, Panama, Albania, Estonia, Pakistan, Palestine, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bhutan, Montenegro, Vietnam, Jordan, Indonesia, India, Yemen, Syria, Brunei, Turkmenistan, Slovenia, Lithuania, Lebanon, Latvia, Croatia and Costa Rica.

What concerns are there?

There has been criticism about the scheme from the United States and other Western nations, who have argued that it may become a "debt trap" for the least developed countries that entails their dependence on China.

Skeptics argue that debt could be an issue because of the inability of certain countries to face the payment of credits granted by the Asian giant to build large works of infrastructure.

Doubts have also been raised about the absence of environmental impact studies, human rights concerns and China’s growing international influence.

How has China responded to the criticism?

President Xi Jinping has vowed that its New Silk Road initiative will be more transparent and environmentally friendly.

At the forum on Friday he said the plan is about “jointly meeting the various challenges and risks confronting mankind, and delivering win-win outcomes and common development.”

He added that the initiative is “not an exclusive club, and aims to promote green development. We may launch green infrastructure projects, make green investment, and provide green financing to protect the earth.”

He also vowed that the main objective is "to offer opportunities for development" and "mutual benefit" for those involved.

Xi guaranteed said that it seeks to "reduce poverty, increase employment and increase well-being." EFE-EPA

rb

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