“BRI cooperation is entering a new stage: we need a new and more constructive approach rather than waste time on suspicion”, China’s Ambassador to EU Zhang Ming underlines live from European Business Summit 2019 in Brussels

Ambassador Zhang Ming 2019 Chinese Mission to EU European Business Summit 2019

Mr. Zhang Ming, China’s Ambassador to the EU at the European Busienss Summit 2019. Copyright: The European Sting, 2019.

Earlier on today, on the first day of the European Business Summit 2019, which takes place on 06-07 May in Brussels, the organiser devoted a full 4 hour session to the Belt and Road Initiative, composed by some high level discussions and panels with politicians and business leaders. The focus was on BRI’s 6 year anniversary and the way forward. This cutting edge session of the Summit was kicked off by its key note speaker, HE Mr. Zhang Ming, the Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to EU:

It’s a chilly Spring in Brussels but also it is a warm and productive Spring for China-EU Relations.  A month ago we just had a successful China-EU Summit. A week ago the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRFIC) was concluded in Beijing with the presence of many leaders.

So, today’s event comes right after that. I am glad to see the high level participation here from political, business and academic centres. Some just travelled a long journey from China to join us. Many of you had a first hand experience of BRFIC and we are very interested to listen to fresh ideas. The BRFIC was widely followed and very fruitful with the participation of governments, the UN, the IMF etc. 283 deliverables were achieved. Business representatives signed cooperation documents of agreements of worth of more than 64 billions USD. I would say the Belt and Road cooperation is entering a new era. So, let me make three points regarding the BRFIC:

First, high quality was the key word. The participants reaffirmed the commitment to maintain the high quality of the Belt and Road cooperation. The BRI must be open, green and clean, it must follow high standards, be people centred and with a sustainable approach. And build a synergy among policies, growth and standards. To that end, we launched a number of initiatives during the Forum, such as the Debt Sustainability Framework for the BRI participating countries, the Beijing initiative for the green Silk Road, the Green Investment Principles for BRI development and the cooperation initiative of Silk Road of Innovation.

Second, the idea of building a global partnership on connectivity was widely supported. An important approach is to forge synergies between the BRI and other countries’ development initiatives, as well as regional and global development agendas. Going on the Forum China signed over 100 bilateral and multilateral cooperation documents with relevant countries and international organisations. Some countries and international financing institutions signed documents on third party or third market cooperation with China.

Third, the discussion has come to be lead by the BRF and supported by sectoral cooperation initiatives. The joint communique of the leaders’ round table points out that we envisage the BRF on regular basis with possible follow up events. So, during this forum in addition to bilateral cooperation, multilateral cooperation platforms have been set up in over 20 sectors. As the Chinese Ambassador to EU I am glad to hear European voices during the Forum. Vice-President Maros Sefcovic of the European Commission addressed the Forum as special representative of President Juncker. Leaders or Representatives of some EU member states were also there. China and Europe signed cooperation documents on investment and financing through important markets, science and innovation, the China-Europe railway express and so on.

Europe has become a major participant both as contributor and beneficiary of the Forum.

Vice President Sefcovic said: “A number of commonalities exist between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and EU’s ambition for connectivity. While we have disagreements on some issues, the EU and China have common challenges to tackle and a wide range of opportunities to explore.”

I fully agree. I am encouraged that there is already common sense between China and the EU to strengthen connectivity. So, now the question is not yes or no, but how. So, I hope our speakers today will help find a good answer.

Now, let me share a few thoughts. First point is about multilateralism. The BRI services as a supplement rather than a replacement of the multilateral international system. With a shared commitment to multilateralism China and the EU need to strengthen cooperation on global governance and address global challenges together. China and EU must jointly reject unilateralism and protectionism and preserve WTO’s international trading system. We could seek more converging views for the joined working group of the WTO reform.

The second point is about the concrete results. We have achieved some good results. 22 European countries have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. China-Europe railway express has made 14000 trips connecting 15 European countries and 51 European cities. More importantly, the railway service is basically balanced in both directions and we could do even more. We work on more European countries getting involved in Belt and Road cooperation.

No matter individually or as a block, welcome. China and EU have agreed to synergise our views for connectivity. It is time to get things done.

We could start with areas where there is already a good basics and identify a list of key projects. We could go through the projects one by one and push them forward as long as the conditions required are met. So that we could have some early harvests. We could have more solid steps in third party countries. For instance we could have a pilot projects in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and promote the good practices. We could do more to enhance non physical connectivity as well. For example, we could jointly allow no customs facilitation measures. Mutual exchanges of customs data and mutual recognition for regulatory results.

We could even be bolder by exploring the possibility of a joined feasibility study of a China-EU FTA.

The third point is about innovation. We live in a world full of new technologies, new forms of business, new lifestyles. And so there is a lot to learn together and from each other. We could jointly build a digital silk road or silk road of innovation. In terms of digital economy, AI and other emerging sectors China and EU can cooperate in different ways, making our cooperation more meaningful. Our businesses could have more ICT cooperation, or 5G, big data, cloud computing and EU commerce to boost cyber connectivity.  China and EU need to step up efforts to formulate a joint roadmap for science and innovation cooperation to further implement the cooperation agreement of science and technology.

We could also work more closely on circular economy to live in a greener world for our children and grand children. I wish to emphasise that to embrace this age of innovation it is crucial to keep open and inclusive. Protectionism and isolationism would not make one survive and thrive.

The fourth point is about high quality. High quality rules and standards. The Belt and Road is aligned with universally accepted rules, standards and best practices. The EU is the front runner in regulation and there are many useful things China can learn from EU friends. China and EU can start up dialogue bilaterally or multilaterally on growth and standards, AI, digital economy and other new areas. We need to see that the rules and standards shield local conditions of the host country. China has launched some initiatives to promote high quality development of the BRI. In terms of financing and environmental protection we welcome the contribution and good experience from EU partners. We could jointly provide high quality and sustainable financing support to the BRI development as an international consortium and credit.

As I said earlier, the BRI cooperation is entering into a new stage. We need a new and more constructive approach rather than waste time on suspicion. We also need new actions to truly substantiate the cooperation.

Together we would be all better off and make our world a better place. 

The BRI session continued with the  speech of Mr. Nirj Deva, President for the EU-China Friendship Group at the European Parliament, who very openly supported China-EU cooperation as regards the BRI. Subsequently, meticulous panel discussions followed with the participation of Ms. Luisa Santos, Director for International Relations at BUSINESSEUROPE, Mr. George Lau, Chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, Mr. Joan Amoros, President of FERRMED, Pepijn de Vreese, Sales Manager of Zeebruge, Mr. Wang Linggui, Executive Vice-President and Secretary General of National Institute for Global Strategy (CASS), Mr. Zhai Dongsheng, Head of the Belt and Road Construction Promotion Centre, Mr. Chen Haibo, Director General of the European Representative Office-State Grid Corporation of China, Mr. Zhou Jiayi, Senior VP, PowerChina International Group LTD and Ms Astrid Skala-Kuhnman, Supervisory Board Member of the Sino German Young Professional Campus.

Overall, the panelists brought their own fruitful industry perspective and experience from BRI. Particularly, Ms. Luisa Santos, representing BUSINESSEUROPE, the organization that officially speaks for the EU industries, acknowledged the value of  BRI and simultaneously endorsed a more informative and open BRI cooperation between China and EU industries.

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