o carry forward the Silk Road spirit of peace and co-operation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit and endow it with new impetus.’’
The opening words on New Zealand’s memorandum with China on the Belt and Road Initiative seems in stark contrast to the superpower’s history of isolationism.
You can’t ignore China, they’re one of our largest trading partners, but is New Zealand’s fixation on the Belt and Road Initiative a case of FOMO, fear of missing out?
A recent seminar run by the New Zealand China Council in Marlborough was held to convince business and local government of the benefits of reviving the ancient silk road trade routes for New Zealand.
Benefits that definitely exist, just don’t ask for an example.
A woman at the event asked if China’s aim was global domination, a sentiment echoed around the world.
The initiative, typified by seemingly philanthropic infrastructure investments in developing countries, had elicited a healthy caution from Western powers and had been labelled by some as a ‘‘debt trap’’.
Chinese infrastructure investment doesn’t appear to be on the table for New Zealand, according to the New Zealand China Council, the opportunities identified focused more on cultural and trade aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Those opportunities, trade facilitation and supply chain connectivity, innovation, the (metaphorical) bridge over the Pacific linking China and South America, and the creative sector are good ideas. Ideas that, for the most part, could stand alone.
For example, New Zealand as a conduit to South America, or the broad term, innovation. Everyone loves innovation.
New Zealand’s entire creative sector is a Belt and Road opportunity. Who’d have thought?
The New Zealand China Council report detailed the benefits of ‘‘hubbing’’ in the context of trade facilitation.
‘‘Explore opportunities for hub locations in the context of future changes in trade flows arising from BRI projects,’’ the council report said.
It’s an idea that could ‘‘potentially’’ gain traction with China under the Belt and Road Initiative, but sending New Zealand products to a hub in China seems like something that should be already happening under the Belt and Road banner.
Why aren’t we already hubbing? We’ve had a free-trade agreement with China for close to a decade.