The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) “is a real opportunity” to strengthen UK – China cooperation in addressing fundamental challenges in the next 20-30 years, which can be divided into three phases, Britain’s envoy to the BRI told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“The most significant contribution we can make to BRI is through engagement to build a mutual understanding of where the opportunities may lie for cooperation,” said Sir Douglas Flint, who was appointed as the Special Envoy to BRI of the British Treasury in December 2017.
There are three phases to improve UK-China cooperation on the BRI, including setting up a BRI Expert Board, building BRI funds and building networks through the Infrastructure Financing Exchange, said Flint, chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen, an investment company.
Regarding himself as “a fan of the objectives of BRI,” Flint said that “in the first phase, we will set up a BRI Expert Board to combine the best talents from China and Britain to clarify the BRI specific criteria and financing standards that would build the most capacity.”
Flint, who served as Chairman of HSBC bank from 2010 to 2017, said the BRI Expert Board will seek to better quantify Belt and Road capital flows and look to understand the value being created by UK companies while providing expert insight into projects already underway.
He added that since the board was announced by British Treasury in December 2017, it had invited about a dozen members including three from the largest Chinese institutions, and it will be supported by a dedicated policy unit called the Infrastructure Financing Exchange.
“The team tasked with implementing the recommendations that come from the expert group will do so in line with national interests and priorities,” he said. “We will act as a portal for UK commercial engagement throughout the Belt and Road projects.”
The second phase is taking the criteria and standards within a framework to build funds. “Have money come in, invest that money, consistent with those standards, and prove the effectiveness of these criteria in attracting financing capacity,” he explained.
Through the established Infrastructure Financing Exchange, the third phase is building networks of suppliers and contractors who want to engage in the international infrastructure projects, meet their Chinese counterparts, and identify areas of cooperation, he said.
Flint also showed enthusiasm for the second BRI forum coming up in April, saying that it is an opportunity to
“demonstrate that the BRI is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals, and is consistent with what the multilateral development agencies are doing.”
When talking about UK-China business cooperation after Brexit, Flint said he believes that Brexit will accelerate the discussion on a closer relationship.
“Britain has always been very open to the Chinese investments. After the Brexit, Britain will be more open to the opportunities to do more together (with China).”