PRESIDENT Duterte left yesterday to attend the Second Belt and Road Initiative Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China, on April 25-27.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) program, known as the New Silk Road, referring to that ancient program that once united nations from Asia to Europe as trading partners, recently took a big step forward when Italy became the first major European economy to join the BRI with a total of 29 agreements with China worth 2.5 billion euros. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and China President Xi Jinping led in the signing of 29 agreements from banking to energy to sports worth $2.8 billion.
From Italy, President Xi proceeded to France where he signed $11.2 million in trade deals plus a $35-million order for Airbus. In France he met with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who discussed their shared commitment to multilateral trade relations.
Switzerland is signing a memorandum of understanding with China to intensify cooperation on trade, investment, and financing, when President Ueli Maurer pays a state visit to China this month.
In Asia, BRI suffered a setback when Malaysia suspended a China-backed East Coast Rail Link project along with other large-scale infrastructure projects to rein in surging national debt, but Prime Minister Mahathir and China agreed to shorten the rail line by 40 kilometers, shaving $2.4 billion of the cost. And in Sri Lanka, its Hambantota port, which entered into a partnership with China Merchants Port Holdings in 2017, has now reported a significant rise in vessel traffic.
President Duterte was among the first world leaders to sign up for the Belt and Road Initiative, confident that it would help in our country’s development. We have since signed many agreements with China which has particularly played a big role in the country’s massive infrastructure program “Build, Build, Build.”
The two countries may sign five new agreements this week – in education, drug rehabilitation, anti-corruption, and development assistance. The President may also hold talks on the sidelines of the conference.
We join President Duterte in his high expectations for the country as he attends the Second Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing.