Egyptian researchers and experts in Asian affairs held a seminar in Cairo on Monday to discuss insights and visions on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its economic and strategic significance for participant states.
Held by the Chinese Studies Unit of Cairo-based Al-Hewar Center for Political and Media Studies, under the theme of “The Belt and Road Initiative, Towards an Egyptian Vision,” the seminar comes to provide Egyptian insights ahead of the second high-profile BRI international forum that will be held in Beijing later in April.
“The seminar comes at an important time to discuss an important topic, for it comes ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be joined by more than 30 leaders including Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi,” Mahmoud Allam, Egypt’s former ambassador to Beijing, said.
Allam, also one of the keynote speakers, highlighted the significance of the BRI in Egypt’s development over the past few years, citing Chinese mega projects in Egypt, including the ongoing construction of a massive business district in the country’s new administrative capital city, in addition to the establishment of energy plants and other infrastructure projects.
“This discussion is like brainstorming over a roadmap for the future of Egypt under the BRI, and I am happy that such discussions about the BRI are not only held by governments but also research centres in BRI states,” the ex-ambassador added.
“This initiative was born to last,” he concluded.
Proposed by China in late 2013, the BRI seeks win-win development cooperation among participating states through economic and trade partnerships as well as infrastructure projects, in addition to cultural interaction and people-to-people exchange in the light of the initiative.
The initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe, Africa and beyond.
Mohamed Fayez Farahat, a political expert and head of the Asian Studies Unit at Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said during the seminar that the elevation of bilateral relations between Egypt and China to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership led to a joint strategic mission to boost Egypt’s economic development, citing massive Chinese investments in Egypt.
“The BRI is different from other economic blocs as it links trade with development,” Farahat said, stressing that “Egypt’s strategic location and its Suez Canal vital waterway make it a focal point on the maritime side of the initiative.”
The researcher explained that the initiative has different areas of cooperation, such as coordination of economic policies, the establishment of infrastructure projects, economic zones and industrial clusters, the financial cooperation between central banks, as well as people-to-people exchange among participant states.
The speakers emphasised China’s efforts to boost the initiative through the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other financial institutions, in addition to currency swap deals with BRI states.
During the seminar, Han Bing, Minister counsellor for economic affairs at the Chinese embassy in Cairo, expressed happiness to attend a seminar for “exchanging views on the BRI and on how connected the development strategies of China and Egypt are.”
He explained that the BRI seeks to boost practical cooperation to create new development opportunities for the peoples of BRI states.
Han cited various Chinese investments in Egyptian development projects, noting that trade exchange between China and Egypt hit a record high of 13.87 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, with an increase of Egyptian exports to China to reach 1.8 billion dollars for the first time.
“The BRI is based on the principles of joint consultation, common construction and shared interests,” the Chinese diplomat told the attendees.