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BRI countries strive to improve trade, investment, and financial integration – White paper

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Participating countries will continue to facilitate trade, investment, and financial integration through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation, said a white paper released by China’s State Council Information Office on Tuesday.

The white paper, titled “The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future,” said that as its scope expands, the BRI has become the world’s largest platform for international cooperation, with the broadest coverage.

Facilitating trade and investment is a major task in building the Belt and Road, said the white paper.

The participating countries have worked hard to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, remove investment and trade barriers, and improve the business environment within the region and in all related countries.

Efforts have been made to build free trade zones, broaden trading areas, improve trade structure, expand areas of mutual investment and industrial cooperation, establish a more balanced, equal and sustainable trading system, and develop mutually beneficial economic and trade relations, to make the “pie” of cooperation bigger.

Trade and investment are expanding steadily, according to the white paper. From 2013 to 2022, the cumulative value of imports and exports between China and other BRI countries reached 19.1 trillion U.S. dollars, with an average annual growth rate of 6.4 percent. The cumulative two-way investment between China and other BRI countries reached 380 billion U.S. dollars, including 240 billion U.S. dollars from China.

By the end of August 2023, more than 80 countries and international organizations had subscribed to the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation Along the Belt and Road, proposed by China. China had signed 21 free trade agreements with 28 countries and regions.

Financial integration is an important pillar of BRI cooperation, said the white paper. Participating countries and relevant institutions have carried out multiple forms of financial cooperation, created new models, expanded the channels, diversified the parties involved, and improved the mechanisms for investment and financing.

They have promoted policy-based finance, development finance, commercial finance, and cooperative finance to support BRI cooperation, and worked to build a long-term, stable and sustainable investment and financing system that keeps risk under control.

The financial cooperation mechanisms are maturing, said the white paper. China Development Bank (CDB) has promoted the establishment of multilateral financial cooperation mechanisms such as China-Central and Eastern Europe Interbank Consortium, the China-Arab Countries Interbank Association, China-ASEAN Interbank Association, the ASEAN Plus Three Interbank Cooperation mechanism, China-Africa Interbank Association, and the Association of China-LAC Development Financial Institutions.

The channels and platforms for investment and financing are constantly expanding, it said. China has funded the establishment of the Silk Road Fund (SRF) and established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with other participating countries.

The SRF specifically serves BRI cooperation. By the end of June 2023, the fund had signed agreements on 75 projects with committed investment of about 22 billion U.S. dollars; the number of AIIB members had reached 106, and the bank had approved 227 projects with a total investment of 43.6 billion U.S. dollars.

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