Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that US$64 billion in deals were signed at a summit on Belt and Road Initiative and more nations would be joining the global infrastructure program.
Xi and 37 world leaders wrapped up a three-day forum in Beijing with pledges to ensure that projects on the new Silk Road are green and financially sustainable.
“We are committed to supporting open, clean and green development and rejecting protectionism,” Xi told journalists at the end of the forum.
His signature foreign policy aims to reinvent the ancient Silk Road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects.
“This year’s forum sends a clear message: More and more friends and partners will join in the Belt and Road cooperation,” Xi said.
So far, 126 countries and 29 international organisations have signed on to partake in the initiative to expand connectivity, trade and people-to-people exchanges and pursue common development throughout Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond.
A document released after the meeting showed that Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Luxembourg, Jamaica, Peru, Italy, Barbados, Cyprus and Yemen were the latest countries to join the initiative.
Xi said enterprises will be the main driver in all Belt and Road projects and market principles will apply, with governments providing a supporting role.
“This will make the projects more sustainable and create a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign investors,” Xi said.
Xi said that business leaders meeting at a side event signed some US$64 billion worth of deals during the forum, without providing details.
At the picturesque Yanqi Lake outside Beijing, leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America gathered to issue a joint communique.
The gathering included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose nation became the first G7 member to join Belt and Road Initiative, and Pakistan’s Imran Khan.
The communique released at the end of the meeting said leaders encouraged multilateral development banks and other international financial institutions to support projects “in fiscally sustainable ways” and mobilise private capital in line with local needs.
“We emphasise the importance of economic, social, fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability of projects,” it said.
The draft communique says BRI will welcome developed countries and international investors to participate in the projects.
The fast-growing Belt and Road Initiative is bringing opportunities to countries both close and far from the ancient Silk Road.
The BRI is “a very good platform for international cooperation, which is emerging and gaining a lot of momentum,” said Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Shide.
“Through this initiative we were able to build the railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti. This is an early harvest of the BRI,” said Shide. “We will continue to be an active player.”
China’s finance ministry released guidelines last Thursday for assessing financial risk and debt sustainability to apply to projects in BRI countries.
A list of 283 “deliverables” that bore the Belt and Road brand name were also published on Saturday, including agreements between museums and art festivals, and even cooperation on space.
Russian President Putin praised China for acting in a “civilised and soft manner.”
“Nobody wants sanctions, nobody wants trade wars, except those who start them. These sanctions harm the world economy,” Putin said, adding that China “currently defends liberal values.”