China to host second Belt and Road forum

Wednesday March 6 2019

China's President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang

China's President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang are applauded as they arrive for the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2019. PHOTO | AFP 

ONYANGO K'ONYANGO
By ONYANGO K'ONYANGO
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China will host its second Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum later this year, in its push to link the country by sea and land through an infrastructure network with Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said the government was committed to seeing the success of the master plan project, also known as Silk Road Economic Belt.

“As a way of opening up China to our international friends, as a government we will seek cooperation between China’s development plans and those of other countries along the BRI routes,” Mr Li said on Tuesday.

He was delivering the government's 2018 report to about 3,000 delegates at the 13th National Peoples’ Congress, a major annual parliamentary meeting, which kicked off on March 5 to 15.

Mr Li said China was keen on addressing challenges such as financial support, investment environments, risk management, and security in its bid to ensure that bilateral cooperation yielded more results.

"We will increase communication and cooperation and forge broad census, and arrange national committee members to conduct research on boosting cooperation on innovation under the Belt and Road Initiative and on issues concerning the recruitment of overseas talents," he said at the opening session presided by President Xi Jinping.

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The initiative launched by President Xi in 2013 seeks to strengthen Chinese global dominance through more than $1 trillion investment in infrastructure.

In Africa, China invests majorly on transport and energy with Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia among the largest partners in the BRI.

In 2018, President Xi, during the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), pledged $60 billion in financial support to Africa as part of the country's engagement with the continent in the next three years.

In 2015, Beijing has made a similar commitment of $60 billion to Africa.

Mr Li told the National Peoples’ Congress that the government plans to cut down on customs clearance time, reduce compliance costs for imports and exports and strengthen its international mutual accreditation of cooperation on Authorized Economic Operator (AEO). These, he said, would foster a steady growth in foreign trade and its export credit insurance and tax rebate financing.

“As we open up for trade with other countries, we will always safeguard our sovereignty with President Xi Jinping’s thought on Socialism Economy with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” said Mr Li.

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