The Slovenia Times

Belt and Road for International Cooperation


Those who travelled to Beijing for the forum included: Russia's President Vladimir Putin; Myanmar's State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi; Turkey's President; Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; Germany's Minister for Economics and Energy, Brigitte Zypries; Serbia's Prime Minister and President-elect, Aleksandar Vučić; America's top Asia policymaker, Matthew Pottinger; Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres; President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim; Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde; and Slovenia's Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek.

The joint communiqué, issued at the conclusion of the Leaders Roundtable of the Belt and Road Forum confirmed the shared commitment of the participants to the next phase of economic globalisation:
We reaffirm our shared commitment to build an open economy, ensure free and inclusive trade, to oppose all forms of protectionism including in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. We endeavour to promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core.

For economists such as Stephen S Roach, there is no doubt that China now appears to be changing from an adapter to a driver of globalisation. The BRI, also known as the OBOR (One Belt One Road) initiative, is China's foreign economic strategy and reflects China's dream, a plan for national rejuvenation under the leadership of Xi Jinping. As BRI takes shape as a concrete plan of action, it is becoming obvious that the dream is globally inclusive, open and integrative. Taking its inspiration from the historic Silk Road, its main ambition is to bring together more than 60 countries and regions from Asia to Europe via Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the Middle East, currently accounting for approximately 30 percent of global GDP and more than 35 percent of the world's merchandise trade.

The Chinese economy has long been one of the greatest beneficiaries of globalisation in terms of export-led growth and poverty reduction. However, to achieve the status of global economic superpower, there was a need for structural economic reforms to adapt to and bring about new opportunities. Somewhat ironically this runs against the anti-globalisation backlash in many developed countries, sometimes directed explicitly toward China. Although, as stressed repeatedly by its highest representatives, China's strategy is not to challenge the existing global order, but to acknowledge its achievements and shortcomings and promote sustainable and harmonious global growth within international norms and commitments such as the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The communiqué further states:
In this context, we welcome bilateral, triangular, regional and multilateral cooperation where countries place emphasis on eradicating poverty, creating jobs, addressing the consequences of international financial crises, promoting sustainable development, and advancing market-based industrial transformation and economic diversification. We note, with appreciation, that various development strategies and connectivity cooperation initiatives have been put forward, providing broad space for strengthening international cooperation.

As estimated by the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2050 the Belt and Road region aims to contribute 80 percent of global GDP growth and advance three billion more people into the middle class. To achieve this, the pan-regional initiative combines economic assistance with the building of infrastructure, supported by recently established financial institutions, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the New (BRICS) Development Bank, and the Silk Road Fund.

The measures to be taken and developed, according to the participants of the Leader Roundtable of the Belt and Road Forum, include prioritising in-depth policy consultation on macroeconomic issues, trade promotion, infrastructure connectivity, financial cooperation, promoting e-commerce and the digital economy, developing free trade areas and the signing of free trade agreements, advancing global value chains development and supply chain connectivity, ensuring safer work places, increasing two-way investment, enhancing cooperation in emerging industries and cross-border economic zones, advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency, deepening practical cooperation on education, science, technology, sport, health, think-tanks, media and capacity building through internships etc.

Overall, the joint communiqué advocates peace, openness, transparency, inclusiveness, equality, mutual learning, mutual benefits and mutual respect through the strengthening of cooperation on the basis of extensive consultation in line with the applicable international laws: Creating a prosperous and peaceful community with a shared future for mankind is our common aspiration.

Slovenia attended the Forum to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation between countries and explore its role in the initiative. Together with other representatives from the European Union, Minister Zdravko Počivalšek joined a discussion on trade cooperation and met the Vice-President of the National Development and Reform Commission. Before the forum, a very concrete long-term success and development proposal from Slovenia to use its experience and know-how to help China develop sporting infrastructure for the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing 2022 was shared. An agreement between the China National Sports Group and Slovenian company, Duol, was signed, including a deal worth an estimated EUR 25m over the next five years.


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