Boao Forum for Asia will Hold a Special Meeting Themed on“ Belt And Road Initiative: Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies” in Paris

In Paris, France in November 2011, Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) once held the International Capital Conference, calling on all parties to build consensus and promoting the structural reform of the international monetary system step by step and steadily.

Boao Forum for Asia will hold a conference again in Paris, France, from September 14 to 15 this year, where guests from Asia and Europe will have an in-depth discussion on the theme “Belt and Road: Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies”. As two major forces for safeguarding world peace and promoting mutual development and prosperity, how China and the EU are going to cope with the complex international situation will attract worldwide attention.

Historically, Europe was the end of the Silk Road, where Asian and European civilizations mingled. Today, “Belt and Road” initiative has connected the two continents in new ways, because the exchanges involve more aspects such as people, businesses, capital and technologies and so on, and are no longer confined to silk and poetry.

What does the “Belt and Road” initiative mean for Europe?

A year ago, beset with Brexit, the Greek debt crisis and the Dutch and French general election, Europe suffered a setback in its integration process. In May, Mr. Macron’s election to the presidency of France reduced political risk in Europe and eased worries about the economy. In 2017, the European countries are recovering economically as the euro is soaring, the unemployment rate is falling, and the industrial output is continuously rising.

However, the problems of immigration, debt, employment, aging population and terrorism still plague European countries. The contradiction between the unified currency and divisive fiscal policies still exists. The UK aggravates the situation with Brexit. Germany and Italy are going to have general election. Some people are still against anti-globalization.

A united, stable, prosperous and open Europe and a strong euro serve the fundamental interests of all European peoples and contribute to world multipolarity, economic globalization and diversity of civilizations. Therefore, the EU must find an effective way to ensure growth in every European country. The “Belt and Road” initiative provides an important opportunity for Europe to address these issues.

The G20 global infrastructure center has recently issued a report. It forecasts that by 2040, with global population growth and urbanization development, the total infrastructure construction spending will reach USD 94 trillion, half of which will come from Asia. European countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Italy have joined the Asian infrastructure investment bank (AIIB), seeing the great opportunity to invest in Asian infrastructure.

Research published by Bruegel, a European economic think tank, points out that the European countries will benefit from improved transport infrastructure and reduced transport costs brought by the “Belt and Road” initiative. Take trade as an example, Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Moldova, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Poland will become the top ten beneficiaries, whose annual growth in trade is expected to be between 8 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

European companies definitely will not miss the huge market and historic opportunities of the “Belt and Road”. Jean-Pascal Triquhar, chief executive of Schneider Electric, said recently that for his company “Belt and Road” was one of the most important programs of the early 2000s.

From the East to the West, the vision of connectivity between Asia and Europe promised by the“Belt and Road” initiative is inspiring. It offers new opportunities for Asia-Europe cooperation and Europe’s economic recovery. Building synergy of “Belt and Road” with European investment plans will deepen mutual benefits and cooperation between Asia and Europe, expand cultural and educational exchanges, and promote cultural integration as well as people-to-people exchange.

Asia and Europe need to work together to boost mutually beneficial cooperation at higher level and higher quality

After a development of more than 40 years, China-EU relations are steering onto a mature and sound course. Since 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Europe many times: in 2014, he attended the nuclear security summit, visiting the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the European Union headquarters. In the meantime, President Xi Jinping put forward the idea of making joint efforts to build partnerships characterized by peace, growth, reform and civilization between China and Europe, to inject new and powerful impetus into China-EU cooperation. In October 2015, he visited London and Manchester. In 2016, he paid frequent visits to the central and eastern European countries and attended the Paris conference on climate change in November. He visited Germany and participated in the G20 summit in Hamburg this year. Xi Jinping pointed out that efforts are needed to study how to dovetail China-EU cooperation with the initiative of developing the Silk Road economic belt so as to integrate the markets of Asia and Europe, energize the people, businesses, capital and technologies of Asia and Europe, and make China and the EU the twin engines of global economic growth.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is also a regular visitor to Europe. Since taking office, except for three times of passing by the European territory, he has made eight official or state visits to Europe, covering more than 10 countries. He built the friendship and consensus among countries and signed a series of economic and trade cooperation agreements. From June 1st to 2nd this year, Premier Li visited Europe again and met with EU leaders to promote the synergy between China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and the European development plan.

The EU has long been China’s largest trading partner, the largest source of technology and an important source of foreign investment, while China is the EU’s second largest trading partner. According to China’s statistics, since the international financial crisis, China’s exports to the EU have increased by 1.8 per cent annually, while the EU’s exports to China have grown at an average annual rate of 5.8 per cent. Now the bilateral trade volume reaches more than $1 million per minute, and the trade volume of two days is equal to that of the whole year when the diplomatic ties were just established. There are more than 600 round-trip flights between China and Europe every week and over 150 China-Europe express trains are in service every month. China-EU cooperation results from our complementary advantages and both sides have benefited from it. On the one hand, the European capital, technology and management experience help China’s industrialization. On the other hand, China’s cheap and fine goods save a lot for European families. China’s vast market has brought huge profits for 16,000 Europe-invested enterprises in China. Meanwhile, Chinese investment in Europe has created a large number of jobs in European countries.

China-EU economic and trade cooperation enjoys great prospects. At a medium-to-high growth rate of 6.5 per cent, China’s economy is in a crucial stage of consumption upgrading and industrial upgrading, which generates increasing demands for high-quality consumer products, advanced technical equipment, and high-quality services from Europe. The economic recovery, the steady growth of household consumption and the increased investment in infrastructure in Europe will present new business opportunities for Chinese enterprises. However, EU investment in China accounts for only 4 per cent of the total amount of its foreign investment, and Chinese investment accounts for only 2 per cent of the total foreign investment in the EU, which is not commensurate with the economic size of the two sides. As a consequence, there still exists great potential for investment cooperation.

At present, the “Belt and Road” initiative is building synergy with the “Juncker Plan”, the economic center in northern England, the Serbian “Re-Industrialization” strategy, Poland’s “Amber Road”, “Middle Corridor” in Turkey, and the Russian “Eurasian Economic Union”. Globally, the “Belt and Road ” initiative also joins hands with the United Nations, and is committed to lifting more people in developing countries out of poverty and achieving common prosperity under the guidance of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals in 2030.

At the G20 Hamburg summit in Germany in early July, there was a range of consensuses reached on preventing trade protectionism and combating terrorism. President Donald Trump’s insistence on withdrawing from the Paris Agreement has led to a failure to reach an agreement on climate change. Leaders from Germany, France and Italy have all expressed their disappointment. At the same time, China and Europe share common interests and goals in free trade, climate change and the promotion of globalization.

In May this year, deputed by the newly-elected French President Macron,Mr. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French prime minister, chairman of the French senate diplomatic and military commission, member of the BFA Board of Directors, attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing as a special representative. Raffarin said in an interview with the media that the traditional Atlantic relations will encounter many difficulties as Europe now faces an “unpredictable” USA, although it is rooted more in the West historically. This will shift Europe’s attention to the East with more close and open eyes in order to strike a balance. He also stressed that Europe must pay full attention to the “Belt and Road” initiative and play an important part in it, strengthening links with Asia through it.

China and Europe are working together with unremitting efforts to construct a more just, equitable and balanced global governance system under the principle of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation.

The BFA Paris conference provides an important platform for Europe to learn more about the Belt and Road initiative. Political leaders from Europe and the Asia-Pacific countries, representatives of regional financial organizations in Asia and Europe, representatives of entrepreneurs from the financial, energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing industries etc., well-known economists and opinion leaders will all attend the meeting. By then, over 300 leaders in the political, business and academic circles will assemble in Paris to explore the “Belt and Road” initiative and new Asia-Europe cooperation opportunities around the hot topics of “infrastructure connectivity”, “promoting trade & investment” and “Inclusive and Innovative Ways of Funding”.

We believe that this conference will help share experiences and enhance cooperation in speeding up the negotiation of high-end investment agreement between China and EU and even between Asia and Europe, launching an early joint feasibility study of free trade area, uplifting the level of trade liberalization and facilitation, promoting balanced growth of bilateral trade, building an investment environment that is more open, fairer and more rule-based, so as to form a pattern featuring two-way opening up, equal treatment and openness, mutual benefit and win-win results.

Source: Boao Forum for Asia (BFA)

Image: Fotosearch