In a Statement released here ahead of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing, the Chinese Diplomat to Dominica, Lu Kun said Belt & Road Initiative was never meant to be limited to certain Countries along certain routes as the idea was for participation and prosperity on a global scale ever since it was born.

The three-day BRF ends on Saturday and Ambassador Kun said with the first BRF in 2017 a success, producing consensus on the BRI, the Second BRF is taking place in response to the wishes of participating Countries and Representatives from over 150 Countries and over 90 international organisations.

It is being held under the theme “Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future”.

Ambassador Kun said that the BRI will bring tangible benefits to the LAC region based on the five cooperation priorities of the initiative dating back to 2017 when Chinese President Xi Jinping called Latin America the “natural extension of the Belt and Road”

The Chinese diplomat said LAC countries are in need of restructuring to promote more inclusive growth and revive the economy.

“Their development strategies can be well aligned with the BRI which attaches importance to capacity cooperation and innovative development.

The BRI, with a focus on enhancing connectivity, can help with the integration process of LAC, removing the physical barriers to a more integrated LAC,” he said, noting that China is capable of providing patient capital to LAC where lack of funds and infrastructure are an immediate problem hindering faster growth.

He said China and LACs are making “great headway” in their relations and cooperation with Beijing becoming the region’s second largest trading partner and the LAC becoming China’s second largest overseas destination for investment, next only to Asia.

He said China-LAC trade increased from US$17 billion in 2002 to US$307 billion last year and that the cumulative stock of Chinese foreign direct investment in LAC reached over US$200 billion in 2017.

“The two sides are complementary in their economic development and there is so much potential for their future cooperation. The BRI will bring this sound economic cooperation to a new level,” Ambassador Kun added.

He noted that on July 13, last year, China and Dominica signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Belt and Road Cooperation and more recently, Barbados and Jamaica have also signed similar agreements.

The Chinese diplomat said that as a result, the number of countries in this region signing BRI cooperation documents with China is 18, including eight Caribbean Community (Caricom) Member States.

The United States has been critical of China’s advancement in the region in recent times and has warned Caribbean countries against accepting aid from Beijing.

Some Caricom Countries, notably, Antigua and Barbuda, have called on Washington to match Beijing’s support for the region rather than spend billions of dollars on arms.

While he made no reference to Washington’s remarks, the Chinese diplomat said that the BRI aims to promote policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds as the five cooperation priorities:

“Policy coordination helps enhance intergovernmental cooperation and political trust, allowing the BRI participating countries to coordinate their development strategies and plans so as to push for major cooperation projects,” he added.