Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Europeans snub trade text at China's Silk Road summit

"In these times, when the temptation is great to respond to the crisis of globalisation by increasing isolation, and by raising walls, this initiative highlights a vision of connectivity, cooperation and dialogue across Europe and Asia but also other parts of the world", Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday.

South Korea's delegation head Park Byeong-seung of the ruling Democratic Party said he had a short conversation with Kim Yong-jae, Pyongyang's minister of external economic relations, at the Belt and Road forum.

European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen told Reuters on Monday that that EU member states would not be signing ministerial statements connected to the summit, though he downplayed the significance.

Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said on Sunday Canberra was receptive to exploring commercial opportunities presented by the initiative, but any decisions would remain incumbent on national interest.

The South Asian nation - the world's fastest growing major economy and Asia's third biggest - chose not to attend the gathering, where China laid out its plan to connect almost 70 countries through a series of global trade pacts, inspired by the ancient Silk Road trading route. That figure derived from a promise, reported by Xinhua, to inject an extra 100 billion yuan ($14.5bn) into the existing Silk Road Fund; 380 billion yuan ($55bn) in loans from two policy banks; 60 billion yuan ($8.7bn) in aid to developing countries along the new trade routes; and 300 billion yuan ($43.5bn) to encourage financial institutions to expand overseas financing.

India boycotted China's high-profile Belt and Road Forum, taking its protest over a controversial multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) traversing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). "Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity", it said. Four, we should build on the solid foundations of One Belt One Road to make it a living, growing and organic partnership.

"We need to improve policy coordination and reject beggar-thy-neighbor practices", Xi told the forum.

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China insists that OBOR will be open to participation from all countries, including Europe, Africa and the Americas, which are not situated on the traditional Silk Road.

He said deep-seated problems in global development had yet to be addressed effectively, with worldwide trade and investment sluggish, and economic globalisation encountering headwinds.

"In a world of growth, interdependence and challenges, no country can tackle the challenges or solve the world's problems on its own", he said as he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Under the current worldwide framework, the USA is leading global organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank, and the global Monetary Fund", read a commentary (link in Chinese) in Xiakedao, a WeChat account run by the People's Daily.

"Washington's participation in the Belt and Road initiative will have knock-on effects, encouraging its allies to see the initiative from a more rational and objective perspective, and thus help win Beijing and its infrastructure projects more global understanding and influence". "In advancing the Belt and Road, we will not retread the old path of games between foes".

The invitation was taken up warmly by United Kingdom finance minister Philip Hammond, who said the United Kingdom was eager to form new trading relationships in the wake of Brexit.

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