By Shifu Awei
China’s trade with Belt and Road countries reached about 20 trillion yuan (2.9 trillion U.S. dollars) during 2014-2016, an official said Wednesday.
The Belt and Road Initiative aims to expand links between Asia, Africa and Europe through billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.
“The growth is faster than the global average,” said Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming at a press conference in Beijing.
China has jointly set up 56 overseas economic cooperation zones in 20 Belt and Road countries, covering processing and manufacturing, resource utilization, agriculture, commercial logistics and R&D.
The country has 11 free trade zones (FTZs) in Belt and Road countries, accounting for half of its FTZs with foreign countries, according to Qian.
China hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14-15.
More than 1,500 delegates, including officials, academics, entrepreneurs, representatives of financial institutions and media organizations from 130 nations, as well as representatives from more than 70 international organizations, attended.
The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is promoting ties through a platform of change and improvement, with more than 50 documents on infrastructure construction that are signed, officials with the nation’s top economic regulator said.
“We do not want to turn the forum into a performance put on only by China. That is not our goal,” said Ou Xiaoli, counsel of the Department of Western Region Development at the National Development and Reform Commission.
“Instead, China hopes to build a platform to enhance cooperation and address global problems,” he said.
“We welcome everyone to participate,” he added.
The forum was held on Sunday and Monday in Beijing, where more than 1,500 leaders and experts participated, according to an agenda released by the commission.
By the end of 2016, more than 100 countries and regions had expressed a willingness to support the Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road.
China has so far signed 46 cooperation agreements with 39 countries and regions to implement the initiative, according to the commission.
Discussions during the forum focuses on eight major areas: infrastructure construction, industrial investment, economic and trade cooperation, energy resources, financial cooperation, cultural exchange, ecological environment and maritime cooperation.
Priority for infrastructure construction was given to fixing bottlenecks and missing links in the transportation network along the Belt and Road countries.
Humaid Kanji, an environmental economist in the United Arab Emirates, said more convenient transportation across continents will improve the efficiency of large-scale regional economic and trade cooperation.
Kanji said building infrastructure projects is not a way for China to export excess capacity because there is a huge gap in infrastructure constructions that cannot be filled in the short term.
“A more efficient and green transportation system will enhance regional connectivity and help resolve other key issues that the international community is grappling with, such as climate change,” he said.
“Many countries touched by the initiative share similar ideas on tackling climate change. We hope to make good use of the initiative to enhance climate policy coordination with China and other countries along the initiative.”