TIME FOR ASIA­PA­CIFIC

Belt and Road con­struc­tion brings new op­por­tu­ni­ties for fu­ture APEC co­op­er­a­tion

Beijing Review - - COVER STORY - By Xu Xi­u­jun

IThe au­thor is a se­nior re­searcher with the In­sti­tute of World Eco­nom­ics and Pol­i­tics of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences n his speech at the 26th Asia-pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing in Pa­pua New Guinea on Novem­ber 18, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping stressed that China will work with all par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries un­der the prin­ci­ple of con­sul­ta­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion for shared ben­e­fits to pur­sue the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, con­sist­ing of the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21stCen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road, in ac­cor­dance with high stan­dards in or­der to de­liver qual­ity out­comes and cre­ate even greater devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for the peo­ple in the Asia-pa­cific re­gion and beyond.

Cur­rently, APEC is in a new pe­riod of ad­just­ment and plan­ning, with mem­ber economies now work­ing on new devel­op­ment pro­grams as the 2020 dead­line for achiev­ing the Bo­gor Goals of free and open trade and in­vest­ment ap­proaches. On the ba­sis of the ex­ist­ing APEC plat­form, the syn­ergy of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive with APEC co­op­er­a­tion will cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties and space for eco­nomic and so­cial devel­op­ment in the Asia-pa­cific re­gion.

Strong roots

The in­te­gra­tion of the China-pro­posed ini­tia­tive with APEC co­op­er­a­tion has a solid foun­da­tion.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive has re­ceived a pos­i­tive re­sponse and in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion from APEC mem­ber economies. Malaysia, New Zealand, Pa­pua New Guinea, Rus­sia, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and Viet Nam have signed in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing for co­op­er­a­tion with China un­der its frame­work, while many oth­ers have reached rel­e­vant co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments. More­over, 16 APEC economies are mem­bers of the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB), a mul­ti­lat­eral devel­op­ment bank ini­ti­ated by China that aims to pro­vide fi­nanc­ing for in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment in Asia. This not only in­di­cates that the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive strongly ap­peals to APEC mem­ber economies, but also that the in­te­gra­tion of Belt and Road con­struc­tion with APEC co­op­er­a­tion will gain sup­port from the ma­jor­ity of them.

In the past five years, China has ac­tively worked to cre­ate syn­ergy be­tween its devel­op­ment strat­egy and the mod­ern­iza­tion pro­grams of other coun­tries. The align­ments un­der the Belt and Road frame­work cover Asia, Europe, Africa, the Amer­i­cas and Ocea­nia. At both the re­gional and bi­lat­eral level, its part­ners con­sist of many APEC mem­ber economies.

Through syn­ergy with the Eurasian Eco­nomic Union com­pris­ing Ar­me­nia, Be­larus, Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Rus­sia, the Mas­ter Plan on ASEAN Con­nec­tiv­ity, the In­done­sian Global Mar­itime Ful­crum, Viet Nam’s Two Cor­ri­dors and One Eco­nomic Cir­cle pro­gram and Thai­land’s East Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor scheme, the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive has gained a foothold in the Asia-pa­cific re­gion be­cause it com­ple­ments per­fectly with these strate­gies and shares a lot of com­mon in­ter­ests with them. This has set a good prece­dent for pro­mot­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the ini­tia­tive and APEC co­op­er­a­tion and laid the foun­da­tion for achiev­ing it.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is highly com­pat­i­ble with key ar­eas of APEC coop- In May 2017, the Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion was held in Bei­jing, herald­ing the ini­tia­tive’s en­try into the full im­ple­men­ta­tion phase. Com­bin­ing the cur­rent de­vel­op­ments of the ini­tia­tive and the main ar­eas of APEC co­op­er­a­tion, three tasks can be taken as pri­or­i­ties for their align­ment.

The first is the lib­er­al­iza­tion and fa­cil­i­ta­tion of trade and in­vest­ment, which is one of the key con­cepts of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive and also one of APEC’S “two wheels.” Pro­mot­ing in­vest­ment and trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion and re­mov­ing rel­e­vant bar­ri­ers are con­ducive to the cre­ation of a sound busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment within the re­gion and in in­volved economies. The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two will pro­mote the con­struc­tion of an ef­fi­cient and smooth trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion pol­icy sys­tem in the Asia-pa­cific re­gion, while the joint con­struc­tion of free trade ar­eas will un­leash the po­ten­tial for ex­panded co­op­er­a­tion.

In­fra­struc­ture con­nec­tiv­ity is an­other pri­or­ity. The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive calls for joint con­tri­bu­tion and has a clear fo­cus to pro­mote in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion and con­nec­tiv­ity, strengthen co­or­di­na­tion on eco­nomic poli­cies, en­hance com­ple­men­tar­ity of devel­op­ment strate­gies and boost in­ter­con­nected devel­op­ment to achieve com­mon pros­per­ity. In­fra­struc­ture con­nec­tiv­ity can stim­u­late eco­nomic growth and cre­ate more jobs, lay­ing a solid foun­da­tion for long-term re­gional devel­op­ment. Rel­e­vant coun­tries should im­prove the con­nec­tiv­ity of their in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion plans and tech­ni­cal stan­dards, jointly push for­ward the con­struc­tion of in­ter­na­tional trunk pas­sage­ways and form an in­fra­struc­ture net­work con­nect­ing all APEC mem­ber economies.

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