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Promoting High-quality Belt and Road Cooperation between China and Europe
2019/05/09

Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the“Belt and Road Initiative 6 years on:towards Higher Quality Development” Roundtable:

President Deva (my good friend),

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

This is a chilly spring in Brussels, but a warm and busy spring for China-EU relations. A month ago, we just had a successful China-EU Summit. A week ago, the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was concluded in Beijing, with the presence of many European friends.

So this event comes just at the right time. I’m glad to see the wide-ranging participation here. We have friends from the political, business and academic sectors. Some just traveled a long journey from China to join us. Like Mr. Deva, many of you had the first-hand experience at the BRF. We are very interested to listen to your fresh ideas today.

The BRF was widely followed and very fruitful. 38 heads of state or government including Chinese President Xi Jinping, the UN Secretary-General and IMF Managing Director joined the big gathering. 283 deliverables were achieved. Business representatives signed project cooperation agreements worth more than US$64 billion. I would say the Belt and Road cooperation is entering into a new stage. Let me make three points regarding the BRF.

First, high-quality was the keyword. The participants reaffirmed the commitment to promoting high-quality development of the Belt and Road cooperation. The BRI must be open, green and clean, follows a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach, and builds synergy among policies, rules and standards. To that end, we launched a number of initiatives during the forum, such as the debt sustainability framework for the BRI participating countries, the Beijing Initiative for the clean Silk Road, the Green Investment Principles for the BRI development and the Cooperation Initiative on Silk Road of Innovation.

Second, the idea of building a global partnership on connectivity was widely supported. An important approach is to forge synergies between the BRI and other countries’ development initiatives, as well as regional and global development agendas. During the Forum, China signed over 100 bilateral and multilateral cooperation documents with the relevant countries and international organizations. Some countries and international financial institutions signed documents on third-market cooperation with China.

Third, a broad structure of the Belt and Road cooperation has come into being, led by the BRF and supported by sectoral cooperation initiatives. The joint communiqué of the Leaders’ Roundtable points out that we envisage the BRF on regular basis with possible follow-up events. During this forum, in addition to bilateral and trilateral cooperation, multilateral cooperation platforms have been set up in over 20 sectors.

As Chinese Ambassador to the EU, I’m glad to hear European voices during the forum. Vice President Maros Sefcovic of the European Commission addressed the forum as special representative of President Juncker. Leaders or representatives of some EU member states were also there. China and Europe signed cooperation documents on investment and financing, third-party markets, science and innovation, and China-Europe Railway Express. Europe has become a major participant, contributor and beneficiary of the forum.

Vice President Sefcovic said, “A number of commonalities exist between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s vision for connectivity. While we have disagreements on some issues, the EU and China have common challenges to tackle and a wide range of opportunities to explore.” I fully agree.

I am encouraged that there is already a consensus between China and the EU to strengthen cooperation on connectivity. So now, the question is not YES or NO, but HOW. I hope our speakers today could help find a good answer. Let me share a few thoughts.

The first point is about multilateralism. The BRI serves as a supplement rather than a replacement of the UN-centered multilateral international system. With a shared commitment to multilateralism, China and the EU need to strengthen cooperation on global governance and address global challenges together. China and the EU must jointly reject unilateralism and protectionism and preserve the WTO-centered multilateral trading system. We could seek more converging views through the joint working group on WTO reform.

The second point is about concrete results. We have achieved some good results. 22 European countries have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. China-Europe Railway Express has made over 14,000 trips, connecting 15 European countries and 51 European cities. More importantly, the rail services are basically balanced in both directions. And we could do even more. China welcomes more European countries getting involved in the Belt and Road cooperation, no matter individually or as a bloc. China and the EU have agreed to synergize our visions for connectivity. It’s time to get things done.

We could start with areas where there is already a good basis and identify a list of key projects. We could go through the projects one by one and push them forward as long as the required conditions are met, so that we could have some early harvests.

We could take more solid steps in third-party markets. For instance, we could have pilot projects in Africa, Asia and Middle East, and promote the good practices.

We could do more to enhance non-physical connectivity as well. For example, we could jointly roll out more customs facilitation measures, enhance mutual exchanges of customs data and mutual recognition of regulatory results.

We could even be bolder by exploring the possibility of a joint feasibility study of China-EU FTA, to truly connect the two big markets.

The third point is about innovation. We live in a world full of new technologies, new forms of business, new lifestyles, and so on. There is a lot to learn together and from each other. We could jointly build a digital silk road or a silk road of innovation.

In terms of digital economy, AI and other emerging sectors, China and the EU have strengths in different ways, making our cooperation all the more meaningful. Our businesses could have more ICT cooperation on 5G, big data, cloud computing and e-commerce, to boost cyber connectivity.

China and the EU need to step up efforts to formulate a joint roadmap for science and innovation cooperation, to further implement the cooperation agreement on science and technology.

We could also work more closely on circular economy to leave a greener world for our children and grandchildren.

I wish to emphasize that, to embrace the age of innovation, it is crucial to keep open and inclusive. Protectionism and isolationism would not make one survive and thrive.

The fourth point is about high-quality. High-quality calls for rules and standards. The Belt and Road cooperation is aligned with universally accepted rules, standards and best practices. The EU is a frontrunner in regulation, and there are many useful things China could learn from EU friends. China and the EU could step up dialogue, bilaterally or multilaterally, on rules and standards, especially with regard to AI, digital economy and other new areas. We need to see that the rules and standards suit the local conditions of the host country.

China has launched some initiatives to promote high-quality development of the BRI, in terms of financing, anti-corruption and environmental protection. We welcome the contribution of and good experience from EU partners. We could jointly provide high-quality and sustainable financial support to the BRI development, in such formats as interbank consortium and interbank credit.

As I said earlier, the BRI cooperation is entering into a new stage. We need a new and more constructive approach rather than waste time on suspicion. We also need new actions to truly substantiate the cooperation. Together, we would be both better off and make our world a better place.

Finally, I wish all of you a most productive and insightful discussion this afternoon. Thank you.

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