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Four Highlights of BFA Paris Meeting

Time:2017-09-11 17:55:38    Views:505647    Origin:Boao Forum for Asia

Over two millennia ago, the Ancient Silk Road bridged the East and the West on camel backs and by ships. Nowadays, the “Belt and Road” initiative brings a new favorable opportunity for Asia-Europe cooperation.

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the founding of EU. Europe emerges from Brexit's shadow and has a robust economic recovery. In September, Germany faces the prospect of general election. Against the above background, on Sept 14th and 15th, Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) will hold a special meeting in Paris, France, themed as “‘Belt and Road’ Initiative: Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies". The meeting will explore the key opportunities and challenges during the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative and coordination with EU policies and strategies from the four perspectives: infrastructure, trade, investment and finance.

ZENG Peiyan, Former Vice Premier of the State Council of China and Vice-Chairman of the BFA and Gérard Larcher, President of the Senate of France will attend the opening ceremony on 15th and deliver a keynote speech. The meeting will also be graced by a number of dignitaries, including ZHOU Wenzhong, Secretary-General of the BFA; Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Former Prime Minister of France, Chairman of Foundation Prospective & Innovation of France and Board Member of the BFA; and Shaukat Aziz, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan and Board Member of the BFA.

Statistically, about 300 distinguished guests from Asia, Europe and other regions of the world will attend this grand gathering, including government officials from countries along the Belt and Road, entrepreneur executives from France, Britain, Germany, Dutch and America, experts in the investment field, scholars and opinion leaders.

Highlight 1: Enhancing policy coordination, an important guarantee for Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies

The “Belt and Road” Initiative, proposed in 2013, has attracted wide attention from all over the world. So far, the Initiative has received support and warm response from over 100 countries and international organizations and over 40 countries and international organizations have signed a cooperation agreement with China, which amply demonstrates the value and feasibility of the “Belt and Road” Initiative.

The “Belt and Road” initiative is building synergy with EU and its member countries’ development plans, including the EU “Juncker Plan”, Eastern European countries “16+1 cooperation”, German Industry 4.0, the economic center in northern England, Poland's “Amber Road”, “ Paris Agreement” on climate change and so on. As Chinese President XI Jinping noted in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the BFA Annual Conference 2015 to develop the Belt and Road is not to replace existing mechanisms or initiatives for regional cooperation. Much to the contrary, we will build on the existing basis to help countries align their development strategies and form complementarity.

The emphasis of implementing the Initiative is five major goals: policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. Among them, policy coordination tops the list and exerts a special effect. As there is a large difference in the political system, economic levels, legal policies and fiscal policies among the countries along the Belt and Road, ineffective communication is likely to cause disputes. Without relevant country's policy guarantee for their business activities, follow-up interconnections of facilities, trade and finances will be out of the question.

Policy coordination should be communication on many levels, including not only the direct communication among the top leaders, but also transactions among policy-making departments, policy-enforcement departments and local governments, as well as enterprises between enterprises and people-to-people exchanges. Meanwhile, available communication platform and mechanism should be exploited.

A host of government officials of Asian and European countries along the “Belt and Road” have been invited to this meeting. On 14th, ZHAI Jun, Chinese Ambassador to France and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, French Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs will attend the welcome dinner and deliver speech. Others who will attend the sessions of the meeting and participate in the discussion include TU Guangshao, President, China Investment Corporation (CIC); AN Chunren, Vice Chairman, CPPCC Ningxia Committee; Maria Van Der Hoeven, former Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and former CEO of International Energy Agency; OU Xiaoli, Counsel of the Western Region Development Department of Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC); and Sok Siphana, Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia. It is believed that they will have policy communication and coordination with other participants at multiple levels.

Highlight 2: Facilities Connectivity, a Priority Area for Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies

Facilities connectivity is a priority area for implementing the “Belt and Road” Initiative and a bright spot of the global economy. Asia, Europe and US all regard infrastructure as the new engine for the economy. According to a report released recently by G20 Global Infrastructure Hub (GIH), by 2040, with world population growth and the needs of the urbanization process, the total investment in global infrastructure will reach $94 trillion, half of which will be from Asian areas.

European countries are mostly export-oriented economies and have distinct advantages in infrastructure such as large equipment manufacturing and hydropower pipe network as well as in the fields of capital, technology and service. They have abundant experience in project risk management in African and Asian countries. China enjoys advantage in infrastructure construction—high-speed rail, highway, bridge and port projects, which are cost-effective and expertise in tackling difficulties, are among China's “draw-cards” in the field of infrastructure construction. China and the EU are highly complementary to each other and a broad cooperation can be conducted.

China and the EU also have great prospect for cooperation in the energy field. In 2016, China and the EU signed China-EU Road Map for Energy Cooperation, which is being put into effect. Europe hopes to establish new energy passageway and pushes forward the plan of “Southern Natural Gas Corridor” to rid itself of the dependency on Russian energy. China and the EU both support the Paris Agreement on climate change and have set emission reduction targets. They will have more cooperation in clean energy field in the future.

Digital market interconnectivity is also a bright spot. Europe can team up with China to establish global standards in the 5G field. With the promotion of Asia-Europe digital interconnection, small and medium enterprises and e-commerce will hopefully become the new subject of Asia-Europe trade and investment.

The meeting's first sub-session focuses on “Infrastructure Connectivity”. The guests who will attend this sub-session are: Stéphane Aver, CEO of Aaqius, Amer Z; Durrani, CEO of Secur Global; OU Xiaoli; Sok Siphana; SUN Ziyu, Vice President and chief engineer of China Communications Construction Company Ltd.; and WANG An, President of China International Engineering Consulting Corporation. Some of them are national level department heads of countries along the Belt and Road, some of them are energy ventures executives, and some are “chief engineers” with vast experiences. In what way will the “Belt and Road” Initiative coordinate with European strategies as a whole and development plans of member states individually in the field of infrastructure? Has good progress been made? What needs to be done further along the line? What are the problems to be solved yet? Let's see what they really think.

Highlight 3: Unimpeded Trade, a Major Task in Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies

“If Europe banned the import of any products from China, Christmas couldn't be celebrated in Europe and children wouldn't be happy.” Christian Ewert, secretary-general of European Foreign Trade Association once described China-Europe trade relations this way. The EU has long been China's largest trade partner, the largest source of technology and an important source of foreign investment; while China is the EU's second biggest trade partner. Their bilateral economic and trade ties are highly complementary and getting increasingly closer.

The US took the lead to practice trade protectionism, leading to tougher trade barriers of developed countries, which may deal a blow to the fragile global economy recovery and do more damage to an already weak global investment. Last month, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned at the annual conference of global central bank governors: resorting to protectionism was a serious risk to the global economy.

Multilateral cooperation is of crucial importance to sustained free trade. As proponents of global free trade, Europe and Asia must depend on each other, enhance cooperation and fight trade protectionism.

“Belt and Road” Initiative will produce direct and positive effect on global trade. China Railway Express to Europe exemplifies unimpeded trade along the Belt and Road. Every day, millions of tons of goods circulate on this “Steel Silk Road”. Trains loaded with grain, auto parts, clothing, computers and cellphones are headed to Hamburg, Warsaw and Rotterdam. On the way back, the trains will be loaded with sports cars, timber, coffee bean, medicines, baby products, wine, and whisky. According to the latest statistics, so far the China Railway Express, receiving a warm welcome along the line, has run a total of 5000 trips between China and Europe on 52 lines, starting from 32 Chinese domestic cities and reaching 32 cities in 12 countries. Last April, Chinese railway department signed the Agreement on Deepening China-Europe Cooperation on China Railway Express to Europe with the counterparts of other 6 countries including Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.

How will the “Belt and Road” initiative promote trade and investment between Asia and EU countries? What measures will be proposed to remove trade and investment barriers? The sub-session of “Promoting Trade and Investment” has invited the world's first class investors and experts and scholars: Justin King, Vice Chairman and Head of Portfolio Businesses of Terra Firma; Jean-Charles Simon, Managing Partner of Simon Associes; Penelope Naas, Senior Vice President of UPS International Public Affairs; TU Guangshao; Jusuf Wanandi, Senior Fellow and Co-founder of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); and ZHANG Xiaoqiang, Executive Deputy Director of China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE). They will share their observations and opinions on the above questions.

Highlight 4: Financial Integration, an Important Underpinning for Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies

Multilateral development banks, policy banks and private capitals play a very important role in the “Belt and Road” financial cooperation. Finance cooperation is not only about “financial integration”, but also about “policy coordination”. It helps the formation of the network for “Belt and Road” financial cooperation.

At present, multilateral development organizations such as the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Asian infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS National Development Bank (NDB), and the SCO Development Bank (SCODB) are seeking cooperation to jointly invest in Asian infrastructure, leveraging global funds for developing countries along the Belt and Road.

The strength of the multilateral development banks alone is far from enough. The “Belt and Road” initiative needs diversified financing channels. To this end, we will develop innovative financial products and encourage more private capital to invest in it, such as bonds, stocks and other innovative financial products, public-private partnership (PPP) model and further open the capital market.

Asia and Europe enjoy huge potential for finance cooperation. In 2015, at the BFA Financial Cooperation Conference in London, ZENG Peiyan pointed out that in the international financial system, Asia owns a large amount of funds and needs to learn from the mature capital market while the modern European financial service industry wishes to expand the market outside the area to enhance liquidity. In the future Eurasian connectivity will be imperative. It will not only provide strong and efficient investment and funding guarantees for "Belt and Road" Initiative, the "Juncker plan" and other Asian and European development plans but also contribute to advancing the reform of the international monetary system and improving the world financial system and global economic governance.

The EU's finance industry is facing reform after Brexit, and its member countries compete to be the European financial center. Paris is a strong contender among them. This meeting has attracted a lot of European financial executives and bankers. At the sub-session “Inclusive and Innovative Ways of Funding”, Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and Board Member of Boao Forum for Asia; Enzo Quattrociocche, Secretary General of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; David Wright, senior adviser and former Vice Chairman of Barclays Bank; SHI Wenchao, Vice Chairman and President of China Unionpay and Benoist Grossmann, managing partner of Indinvest will participate in the discussion. They discuss topics such as finance and Fintech.

The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing Asian countries with huge potential for economic development and strong development motivation. Under the framework of regional economy cooperation, the Belt and Road, being the new engine for global economy, will link up Asian-European highway, business, technology and personnel. The Belt and Road Initiative should be jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all, thus to realize "peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit".

BFA dedicates itself to the integration of Asian region economy, the promotion of economic communication, coordination and cooperation between Asia and other regions in the world. At this point, the BFA Paris Meeting provides a high-end dialogue platform for Europe to learn more about the “Belt and Road” initiative, for Asia to build synergy with European development plans, for more Asia-Europe business to get involved and seek opportunities for their own development and help to build Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies.

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