A New Chinese backed report contends the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has now created the world’s second largest economic bloc behind only the European Union (EU).

The report on the Belt and Road trade and investment index has been compiled by the China Center for International Economic Exchanges and several other think tanks.

It notes that trade among countries connected to the Belt and Road Initiative has been expanding remarkably since it was firstly initiated.

“The trade volume among China and other Belt and Road (B&R) countries surpassed 6 trillion U.S. dollars from 2013 to 2018, and the annual growth rate is faster than that of China’s overall foreign trade.

The trade volume between China and other B&R countries accounted for 27.4 percent of China’s total trade in goods in 2018, compared to 25 percent in 2013. China has become the biggest trading partner of 25 Belt and Road countries,” says Zhang Xiaoqiang, a Vice Chair with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

The report shows China’s direct investment in Belt and Road countries surpassed 90 billion dollars in the 2013 to 2018 period.

It notes a number of infrastructure construction projects have already been completed through the BRI, which it suggests is boosting inter-connectivity.

The report says China tops the trade index among 41 countries surveyed, followed by Singapore and India.

It also argues that trade liberalisation is being increased, while risks are declining.

Researcher Zhang Monan with China Center for International Economic Exchanges argues the Belt and Road has formed the second largest economic bloc in the world after only the EU.

“The trade volume among countries and regions along the Belt and Road is equivalent to 65 percent of the volume among EU members, but is much higher than that of the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA).

More and more countries and regions along the initiative are taking part in trade and investment, increasingly creating trade potential. The growth rate of cross-border capital flows contributed by the Belt and Road countries is also much faster than other parts of the world,” says Zhang Monan.

The report says BRI countries and regions contribute 31.6 percent of global cross-border capital flows, compared to 23 percent by NAFTA and 21.2 percent by the EU.

The report argues this has made countries along the Belt and Road the world’s most important destination for foreign investment flows.