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ASEAN, Middle East eye closer partnerships under BRI

By YANG HAN, JAN YUMUL and OSWALD CHAN in Hong Kong | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-13 22:22


Ministers and top officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Hungary and Middle East countries eye closer partnership with countries and regions engaged in the Belt and Road Initiative while speaking at the 8th BRI Summit in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Kazakhstan's Minister of Trade and Integration Arman Shakkaliyev told the opening session his country was the first to join the BRI and it aims to become a transport hub of Eurasia linking the continents.

Indonesia's Special Staff to Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Rizal Affandi Lukman said his country and ASEAN in general "look forward to deepening economic cooperation opportunities within the Belt and Road framework in the region, and welcome having future projects of cooperation for Indonesia and across the region".

The symbolic and significant Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway and other joint development projects are elevating people's benefits and prospects to foster better connectivity and mutual growth among the peoples, he noted in a keynote address.

ASEAN's Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn raised five points for people-centered, high-quality and sustainable growth in a luncheon keynote speech.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the BRI, Kao first emphasized connectivity not only for the flow of goods and services among partners, but also for broader trade, investment, education, tourism and related exchanges.

He also urged promoting smart cities and sustainable organizations and empowering the people of the region, including its youths, as ASEAN moves to become the "epicenter of growth".

Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri told China Daily the UAE is hopeful its expanding trade engagements with China within the BRI framework will also bring more inclusivity to the country and the Greater Bay Area.

The UAE accounts for a huge amount of trade with countries involved in the BRI compared with the last couple of decades, and "will play a major role as well in the next decade … more inclusiveness, more people together", he said.

"I think when we look at the climate change aspects, climate change cannot be addressed without China. And I think that's something, which is an important aspect, where we want to bring as well part of the people-to-people engagement, inclusiveness in the multipolar world as the UAE is hosting the COP28 (in November)," Al Marri said.

Fahd bin Abdulmohsen Al-Rasheed, adviser in the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia, said: "We are over here together to celebrate a decade of the BRI. And it is a historic moment."

The world was facing $14 trillion deficit in infrastructure, he said, adding there were "a lot of questions, but very few answers".

The BRI has been "an answer to that challenge", he said, as the China-led initiative has brought together more than 150 countries on board, mobilizing $1 trillion, lifting 40 million people out of poverty and generating 140,000 jobs.

Rania A. Al-Mashat, minister of international cooperation of Egypt, emphasized the strong relationship between Egypt and China and said the Global Development Initiative was a "very important initiative" China was pushing forward to advance cooperation on the BRI.

Hungary's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto, on the first day of the summit, said, "Strengthening the Belt and Road Initiative will be always at the forefront of our foreign policy strategy, given the fact that so far we have taken so much profit out of it."

Both his country and many businesses in Europe are against "decoupling" because the European Union cannot regain its economic competitiveness without close East-West cooperation, Szijjarto said.

Vietnam's Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dzung made three proposals for future BRI cooperation focusing on digital, green economy and innovative development models, as well as promoting development cooperation, particularly in bolstering road network connectivity.

Contact the writers at kelly@chinadailyapac.com.

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