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Maritime Silk Road, New Opportunities for Cooperation

In May, the article Maritime Silk Road, New Opportunities for Cooperation Signed by Chinese Ambassador H.E Song Yumin was published in Guardian and Newsday.

                                          Maritime Silk Road, New Opportunities for Cooperation  

From 14 to 15 May 2017, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) will be held in Beijing. People of various sectors from 110 countries world-wide and representatives from 61 international organizations including 28 head of state or government as well as the UN Secretary-General have confirmed their attendance. When President Xi Jinping announced at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos on 17 January that China will host the BRF in May in its capital city, he emphasized that the Forum will aim to discuss ways to boost cooperation, build cooperation platforms and share cooperation outcomes. The forum will also explore ways to address problems facing global and regional economy, create fresh energy for pursuing interconnected development and make the Belt and Road Imitative deliver greater benefits to the people of all countries.

The Silk Road originated from silk trade 2000 years ago linked China with regions of Central Asia, South Asia, Europe and North Africa. The Maritime Silk Road oriented in South China sea is the oldest sea route found in history. For centuries in history, the camel fleets and sailing vessels blazed a trail in the network of routes defying national borders and bolstered the spirit of trade and cultural exchanges. The Silk Road served as avenues for dialogues between eastern and western civilization and played an important role in the course of global civilization.

Being so culturally nourished, China is now carrying forward the Silk Road Spirit. In the fall of 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. He called on the world to inherit the Silk Road spirit of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit and follow the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. The ultimate aim of this Initiative is to enhance complementarity and synergy of development strategies and promote common progress of participating countries through closer international cooperation.

At present, the world economy faces slow recovery and  sluggish growth. There are rising protectionism and louder voices against globalization. The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road embraces the trend towards a multi-polar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application and is designed to uphold the global free trade regime and the open world economy in the spirit of open regional cooperation. The Initiative provides a solution with Chinese wisdom for world economy to get out of woods and promote a just and reasonable global governance system. It is positively recognized by countries around the world and in the past three years, an extensive consensus has been reached in international cooperation. So far, China has signed cooperation agreements to jointly build the Belt and Road with over 40 countries and regions. Some 20 more countries and regions are expected to join the actions during the Forum in May.

The Belt and Road construction will bring huge opportunities for common development of China and countries along the routes. In the past three years, a series of progresses have been achieved. Firstly, the cooperation on financing bore fruits. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is open for business and the first projects with investment from the Silk Road Fund have been launched. Various bilateral and multilateral cooperation funds were set up by relevant countries joining the Initiative. Secondly, Connectivity building hailed progress. The construction of the Hungary-Serbia Railway and the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail have already started. Projects forming the pan-Asian railway network, including China-Laos and China-Thailand Railway have been launched. A number of motorway projects are making good progress and plans for connectivity are in the pipeline. Thirdly, Production capacity cooperation got boost. China has signed agreements with over 20 countries, started mechanism capacity cooperation and launch a batch of major projects. Fourthly, Economic Corridors are under construction. Substantial progress has been achieved on China-Pakistan , China-Mongolia-Russia and the new Eurasian Land Bridge as well as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. Fifthly, Regional trade and investment soared. Up to the end of 2016, the total volume of trade between China and countries along the routes reached 8.489 trillion USD and made up over 25% of China's total foreign trade. Meanwhile, Chinese companies has invested 18 billion USD in countries along the Belt and Road and created 1 billion USD tax revenue and 160 thousands jobs.

In recent years, China's economy has entered the "new normal" and showed a good momentum of structural adjustment, transformation and upgrading. It maintains a medium-high growth speed which tops major world economies and contributes over 30% of world economy growth. It's estimated that in the following 5 years, China will import 80 trillion USD goods, attract 600 billion USD investment and invest 750 billion USD in foreign countries. At the same time, the total number of Chinese people travel abroad will reach 700 million person-times. During last Chinese Spring Festival, 6.15 million person-times Chinese people traveled to 1254 cities in 85 countries and regions and consumed 1 trillion RMB abroad. The sound and steady development of China's economy will offer greater power for world economic stability and growth. The joint development between China and many other countries will balance world economic development.

China and Trinidad and Tobago share converging development strategy and enjoy high complementary in economic transformation. Should our development plans be integrated into the Belt and Road strategy, our comprehensive and practical cooperation will gain greater driving force. Both countries are at critical stage of national construction, face the similar challenges in economic structural transformation and upgrading and shoulder the common responsibility to boost economy. It offers broader space for further bilateral cooperation when Trinidad and Tobago embarks on its diversification actions. Under the "1+3+6" framework of China-CELAC cooperation, practical cooperations could be strengthened in fields including infrastructure, industrial park, financing investment, tourism, reshaping Trinidad and Tobago as the regional center for shipping, logistics and financing.

The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by China, but it's not going to be China's solo show. Instead, this Initiative is meant to be a major international public goods benefiting all countries. It originated from cooperation among countries along the Belt and Road and is not restricted to geographic boundaries. It is an Initiative for international cooperation in its essence, thus is open to all like-minded countries and regions.

The vast ocean between China and Trinidad and Tobago could carry the huge vessel of friendship and cooperation to the course of a new route of the Maritime Silk Road.


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