World

30 leaders reaffirm their commitment to Belt and Road

Summit on new China-led Silk Road initiative ends with joint communique

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping and 29 other heads of state yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to build an open economy and ensure free and inclusive trade under the ambitious Belt and Road initiative led by Beijing.

As a two-day summit on the project wound up in Beijing, the 30 nations also agreed to promote a rules-based and non-discriminatory trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and oppose protectionism, according to a joint communique signed by the leaders.

In it, they underlined the importance of expanding trade and investment based on a level playing field.

"It is our hope that through the Belt and Road development, we will unleash new economic forces for global growth, build new platforms for global development and rebalance economic globalisation, so mankind will move closer to a community of common destiny," Mr Xi said at the close of the event.

The inclusive tone of China's Belt and Road push stands in stark contrast to US President Donald Trump's "America First" policy.

Some Western diplomats have expressed unease about the initiative, seeing it as an attempt to promote Chinese influence globally. They are also concerned about transparency and access for foreign companies.

Germany said its firms are willing to support the initiative, but more transparency is needed, Reuters reported.

European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen said yesterday that European Union member states would not be signing ministerial statements connected to the summit, though he downplayed the significance.

"The European Commission, who has a mandate, who has the capacity to negotiate on behalf of member states on trade-related issues - we were not given a chance to negotiate on the text," he said.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Xi urged major multilateral institutions to join the Belt and Road initiative, stressing the importance of rejecting protectionism in seeking global economic growth.

Mr Xi, seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was speaking at a convention centre in northern Beijing on the summit's second and final day.

SECOND FORUM

Mr Xi said China will host the second Belt and Road Forum in 2019.

He added: "We have every reason to be confident in the future of the Belt and Road.

"That said, there is still a long way to go, as the Belt and Road is a long-term undertaking."

Meanwhile, China signed cooperation deals with 68 countries and international organisations during the forum, The Straits Times reported.

The deals yielded a list of 270 deliverables in areas such as policy coordination, infrastructure building, trade, investment and finance as well as people-to-people exchanges, Mr Xi said.

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