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MNI INTERVIEW: China To Push For Formal Belt & Road Structure

MNI (Beijing)

China wants eventually to develop its Belt and Road Initiative into a common market, with shared external tariffs, starting with framework treaties to open up trade further in a similar pattern to that followed by ASEAN, a leading Chinese international affairs expert told MNI.

China announced a new round of BRI investment last week in Beijing, with China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China each providing a CNY350 billion financing window, with plans to inject CNY80 billion into the Silk Road Fund.

China would use ASEAN as a template for how the project can evolve, using agreements to first establish a single market for trade with the longer-term goal of a common market with the ability to set tariffs and duties, said Zheng Yongnian, director of the Institute for International Affairs at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“We are entering BRI 2.0 now that most heavy infrastructure projects are complete,” said Zheng, also board director at the Institute of the Greater Bay Area, adding that remaining projects would focus on green transition and tech-related endeavors. China now wants member countries to use Belt and Road for cooperation between each other, rather than have the group be entirely driven by initiatives from Beijing, Zheng said on the sidelines of last week’s BRI forum, which was addressed by President Xi Jinping. The number of bilateral meetings not involving Chinese leaders had increased at this year's forum, Zheng noted.


Zheng said China will employ a similar strategy as it did in its successful World Trade Organisation application in the late 1990s to overcome resistance from member countries to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“China is reforming domestically first to show it can comply with CPTPP regulations,” he said. “After that, there is a good chance China will join in the end.”

Beijing has made accession to the CPTPP a top priority as national exports fell 6.2% in September marking the fifth month of contraction this year. Chinese leaders have regularly reiterated their intention to join the trading bloc and in June, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said the Ministry of Commerce had submitted more than 2,300 articles to the CPTPP to demonstrate the compliant reform measures are underway

MNI Beijing Bureau |

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