As a strategy that promotes trade and connectivity, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) can play a crucial role in strengthening cooperation between countries, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (April 26).

It is coming at a time when the world is seeing a pushback against globalisation, and growing distrust of governments and public institutions, making it harder for countries to work together, he said.

But working within such multilateral frameworks is the only way countries can solve the many complex transnational challenges they face, from terrorism to climate change, PM Lee said at a high-level meeting during the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

“Both countries and their problems have become so interconnected and interdependent,” he added.

“All countries, big and small, rely on a stable global order on which we can cooperate productively, resolve disputes peacefully and work together on new areas.”

Mr. Lee is on a five-day visit to China, where he is attending the forum for the first time. He spoke at the high-level meeting along with other world leaders including Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The BRI, a plan to revive ancient overland and maritime trade routes which connects China to Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia, is the signature foreign policy and development strategy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It has so far reduced by two-thirds, the time required for goods from western China to reach South-east Asia, improved flow of trade, finances, and smoothed customs procedures. He also said the initiative was one of the tangible outcomes from the BRI.

Now, six years after the BRI was mooted, it was timely to “review progress and to discuss perspectives on the way forward”, said PM Lee.

Later in the day, Mr and Mrs Lee, along with other foreign leaders and their spouses, will be hosted to a welcome banquet by President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan.