Despite the disruptions from growing protectionism and unilateralism, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has showed a stronger appeal with the potential to benefit both developing and developed economies.
To date, 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements with China. France has agreed to jointly promote BRI-related third-party market cooperation with China, while Italy and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly advancing the initiative.
China-Europe freight trains, an artery of international trade, now link 59 cities in China with 50 cities in 15 European countries, with the cumulative number of trips reaching 14,000 by the end of February. The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2 percent and will contribute at least 0.1 percent of global growth in 2019.
As the global economic outlook, especially trade growth, has been on a slowdown trend, the BRI has no doubt added much-needed certainty to the world economy by advancing globalization in a manner that is more open, inclusive and balanced. More than ever before, the world needs to enhance connectivity to jointly incubate new growth engines and address the problem of unbalanced development.
For developed economies, more active involvement in the BRI will definitely allow them to better tap into the Chinese market that is seeking consumption upgrading and therefore boost their homeland manufacturing.Moreover, they can cash in on China’s development opportunities in a myriad of sectors, as modern trade routes under the BRI will boost the flow of not only merchandises but also services, especially those concerning environmental protection, financing, laws, logistics and other spheres where developed countries have advantages.
The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) is scheduled to open in Beijing in late April. Representatives from over 100 countries, including about 40 leaders of governments, have confirmed their attendance. Launched in 2013, the initiative is just starting out, and there is a lot more the world can accomplish by seeking to boost shared growth through discussion and collaboration.