Saturday

27th May 2017

Stakeholder

Closer China and EU cooperation vital for global prosperity

  • Freight trains have been transporting goods from Hamburg (Germany) to Zhengzou (China) since September 2014. (Photo: DB Schenker)

When it was announced that the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) would be held in Beijing from 14 to 15 May, it soon became headline news.

It is the highest level international conference held by China since the “Belt and Road” initiative was put forward by president Xi Jinping in 2013.

  • China's president Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, on 14 May 2017. (Photo: China Daily)

With its central theme: “Strengthening International Cooperation and Co-building the ‘Belt and Road’ for Win-win Development”, the Forum is expected to focus on four areas.

Firstly, identifying goals and principles for cooperation, and deepening the implementation of docking strategies.

Secondly, drawing up cooperation plans for the next 5 years, or longer, and detailing action plans.

Thirdly, establishing a list of projects and pushing forward with implementation.

Fourthly, introducing a series of significant policies and supportive measures – including the strengthening of the financial cooperation mechanism, constructing comprehensive service platforms and enhancing the exchange and training of professional talent.

Coming from over 110 countries, more than 1,500 high-level officials, scholars, business and industry leaders, financial institution representatives, media representatives, and heads of international organisations have attended.

28 heads of state and government present, including the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Serbia and Spain, as well as Vice-president of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen, also participated.

At a time when the foundation for global economic recovery is slow, trade investment remains weak, and growth impetus is unstable, the Forum offers an excellent opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and, most importantly, to consolidate a closer and stronger partnership.

Shared growth, development and connectivity

China and Europe share a common pursuit towards shared growth, development and connectivity – so far producing a record worthy of pride.

At the 17th China-EU Summit in 2015, China and the EU have worked together to support synergies between the “Belt and Road” initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe.

China and the 16 Central and Eastern European countries have worked together closely to enhance cooperation within the “Belt and Road” initiative and 16+1 framework.

China and the EU signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a Connectivity Platform.

A rail freight service was launched with some European countries, including the first direct rail link between China and Great Britain, which went into operation early this year.

Cooperation between China and European countries – in areas such as railways, ports, airports, power, transportation and logistics – has also gained momentum.

In 5G telecommunications, China and the EU have deepened dialogue and cooperation in the field of ICT to achieve better synergy between Europe’s digital agenda and China’s Internet Plus strategy, which will benefit the 1.1 billion internet users in both China and the EU.

The two sides have agreed to set up a co-investment fund to develop practical avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation. China's Silk Road Fund, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank are working towards concrete ways of increasing cooperation on investment.

Being the world’s second largest economy, China became the 67th member and shareholder of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) last year. As described by the EBRD president, Sir Suma Chakrabarti, China’s membership is a win-win scenario.

While supporting Chinese companies investing into the regions, the EBRD will also provide a boost to the “Belt and Road” initiative, where it passes through member countries.

Notably, the EU and many of its members states have shown a strong interest and support for cooperating with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to address Asia’s extensive needs for infrastructure investment.

Of the 52 members in the AIIB, 18 are from Europe and, among them, 14 are EU member states.

Win-win formula

There have been three China-EU High-Level People-to-People Dialogues. Student and professor exchanges have increased, with more and more dialogue and cooperation between think tanks, academics and journalists – especially in the cultural field.

Mobility of people between China and the EU has also been expanded and made easier.

An agreement on the short-stay visa waiver for holders of diplomatic passports was signed in March 2016 and it was agreed to open visa application centres in mutually-agreed Chinese cities, without consular presence.

With the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (Tran), the EU-China One Belt One Road Culture & Tourism Development Committee was established to promote cultural diversity, connectivity, heritage preservation and to harness the tourism growth potential of China and the EU.

Though still young, the “Belt and Road” initiative has already captured people’s attention and has been kicked off with solid progress.

With the highly-anticipated Belt and Road Forum being convened, there is a greater interest in exploring more areas of cooperation to achieve interconnected development.

Like the ancient Silk Road – which brought benefits to China, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe – the “Belt and Road” is guided by the spirit of openness and constructive cooperation.

In the face of rising protectionist and anti-globalisation sentiments around the world, it is in everyone’s interest that China and the EU stay committed to free trade and economic openness, to a rules-based, transparent and fair international trading regime – to achieve greater connectivity, economic development and prosperity.

The “Belt and Road” is a win-win formula and not a one-state show. Fear-mongers claiming that the initiative is designed to give China access to new markets, threatening the future of Europe, will be proven foolish in time. Such scepticism overlooks the opportunities such initiatives bring to European integration.

The “Belt and Road” initiative aims to be open, transparent, harmonious and inclusive. All countries along the routes are invited to participate and all participants have a stake in the design of its objectives and goals. Participants can only benefit from the project.

Economic and trade dialogue

It is time China and the EU capitalise on the new and exciting opportunities the “Belt and Road” initiative offers. We need to broaden policy coordination and further consensus through institutionalised dialogue mechanisms, especially the China-EU High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue.

We will collaborate more closely on concrete projects within the China-EU Connectivity Platform, exploring means of joint financing, initiating projects and working out a concrete road-map for implementation.

China is more than ready to add new dimensions to cooperation. For instance, our country has embarked on transitioning to a new model of economic development based on innovation.

As innovation remains essential to the European integration process, we should make it a high priority to enhance cooperation in science, technology and innovation.

The promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and strengthening their role as principal driving forces in economic development and regional integration should also be made a priority.

We hope that at the BRF and the 19th China-EU Summit, it will be made loud and clear that China and the EU are two important players for maintaining world peace and promoting common development and prosperity.

China and the EU will shoulder the shared responsibility to promote the construction of a fairer, more reasonable and balanced global governance system.

Through openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation – we can make a difference together.

Focus

Hungary signs up to Silk Road project

Hungary has become the first EU country to join China's flagship initiative, which aims to revitalise a historic trade route between Europe and the Far East.

Opinion

Why the EU doesn't get China's Belt and Road

It is not enough for European officials to simply tell the press that they do not understand the Belt and Road – the vision is clear enough, the point is to decide how to engage with it.

Letter

An open letter to ministers on the audiovisual directive

The ongoing revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive is a key opportunity to reduce exposure of Europe's children to advertisements of health-harmful products – an opportunity that should not be missed.

We must renew Europe for all Europeans

A call for socialist values and rights at a time when Europe is facing a number of existential threats, says a group of progressive European affairs ministers.

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