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Sustainable Infrastructure and Connectivity in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): a stimulating China-EU dialogue at European Business Summit 2018

On the first day of the European Business Summit in Brussels and after the enlightening speech by HE Mr Zhang Ming, Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to the European Union, a panel of distinguished EU and Chinese stakeholders discussed about the Sustainable Infrastructure and Connectivity of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The panel discussion kicked off after moderator Shada Islam, Director Europe & Geopolitics of Friends of Europe, asked Ms Alicia García Herrero, Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at NATIXIS, “what China could do better to communicate on multilateralism”.

Ms Herrero responded that BRI should not only be a bilateral project between China and certain other countries but a multilateral one. The Chief Economist stated also that China is indeed working a lot on this Initiative but it is crucial that not only China participates in it but multiple other countries as well. More specifically, Alicia Herrero said: “China is trying very hard. It should be highlighted that it is not a China project”.

The discussion continued with Luc Arnouts, Director of International Networks of Antwerp Port. Mr Arnouts commented on the opportunities and challenges of BRI underlying the importance of connectivity. The Director of Antwerp Port said that China has been “on our radar for decades now” since it is no four partner of Antwerp and no two in terms of container. What is more, Luc Arnouts stated that there is already tremendous connectivity between China and Antwerp ports and that is also a BRI consequence. Last, but not least, China’s investment on Piraeus Port is another example of how European and Chinese Ports are connected and by extent the benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Li Jingjing, Vice president of Sany Group which is a Chinese multinational heavy machinery manufacturing company, was also among the panelists. Ms Jingjing mainly stressed the issue of gathering money through BRI in order for companies to go global. Collaboration among all parties together with the sharing of knowledge and experience to make that happen is crucial. As Sany’s Vice President mentioned: “BRI is the face tool to help build industry system through it”.

Dennis Pamlin, founder of 21st Century Frontiers, was the last one to speak about the connectivity and infrastructure of BRI. Mr Pamlin underlined that BRI can connect old and new sustainable solutions but a new set of tools needs to be created to achieve it. Furthermore, Dennis Pamlin stated that global collaboration is needed and people should be urged to actively participate.

The moderator Ms Shada Islam then asked him: “How to ensure compliance with climate change requirements?” The entrepreneur and CEO of 21st Century Frontiers responded that transparency is very important and the tools to ensure compliance exist but should be different from the ones used already.

All in all, it was quite obvious in the discussion among all panelists that BRI has benefited both China and EU where connectivity and infrastructure is achieved through the huge flow of investments.

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