TIME FOR ASIAPACIFIC
Belt and Road construction brings new opportunities for future APEC cooperation
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.
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.