China’s top legislator called for cooperation, mutual respect and free trade to fight protectionism and unilateralism at the opening session of the 4th Meeting of Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments on Tuesday.

Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, said the world is facing challenges from unilateralism, protectionism and a competitive mindset.

He called on Eurasian countries to seek common ground and downplay the differences, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and cooperate to achieve collective development.

The meeting, which was held in Nur-Sultan, capital of Kazakhstan, attracted delegations from more than 60 countries and 14 inter-parliamentary organisations.

This year’s conference, themed “Greater Eurasia: Dialogue. Trust. Partnership,” sends the message that countries in the region shall use the dialogue platform for ways to ensure the safe and stable development of Eurasia, said to a press release by the organisers.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s first president, welcomed the delegations and noted the importance of open dialogue and mutual trust in dealing with global problems such as nuclear threats, regional wars and conflicts and climate change.

Trade between China and countries along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has exceeded $6 trillion as of 2018, and Li invited all countries to join China in sharing the fruits of development.

Nazarbayev hailed the BRI that has benefited the development of Kazakhstan, saying that container transportation over the borders roughly doubled year-on-year.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and our people have strived and fought toward peaceful development. China is ready to coordinate the BRI with other development frameworks raised by Eurasian countries, Li said.

Li praised the concept of Eurasian integration raised 25 years ago by Nazarbayev, saying that land-locked country has made progress in easing unemployment and containing inflation, and become an important bridge between the two ends of the continent.

Li also pointed out that people-to-people exchanges are important channels to increase mutual understanding and trust, urging Eurasian countries to carry out more cooperation in fields like education, tourism, sports and media.

Bibigul Abdrahkmanova, a Senior Researcher at Eurasian National University in Nur-sultan, told the Global Times her institute has been sending PhD students to short courses and exchange programs at Chinese universities in Beijing and Tianjin.

“It’s very helpful not only academically, but also a chance for the students to deepen their understanding of China’s development,” she said.

This is the first time a parliamentary event of such a high level has been held in Kazakhstan. Legislators also held bilateral and multilateral talks.

The annual meeting started in 2016 in Moscow, Russia and was held in South Korea and Turkey in 2017 and 2018, respectively.