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Li's trip a big boost for stronger Eurasian partnership, connectivity

(Xinhua)    07:22, October 22, 2018

BELGIUM-BRUSSELS-CHINA-LI KEQIANG-ASEM-SUMMIT

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addresses the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 19, 2018. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

BRUSSELS, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- As economic globalization continues to lose momentum while protectionism and unilateralism rise, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's Eurasian trip has offered China's answer on how to steer the world economy out of difficulties through concerted efforts and cooperation.

Li's nine-day visit took him to Tajikistan, the Netherlands and Belgium, where the Chinese premier and leaders of Eurasian countries held in-depth talks, promising to enhance mutual trust and forge stronger partnerships.

Furthermore, Asia and Europe, two stabilizing forces of the world as well as two major economic blocs, were committed to upholding multilateralism and safeguarding the rules-based free trade system to maintain sustainable global growth.

JOINT VOICE ON FREE TRADE, MULTILATERALISM

Li's trip came at a time when openness and cooperation were challenged by isolationism and confrontation. In face of such trying times, a more connected Eurasia is badly needed than ever before.

Situated on the world's largest landmass which houses more than two-thirds of the world's population, Asia and Europe share common ground for free trade and multilateralism because of their geographical advantages and demand for further development.

When addressing the two-day 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit held in Brussels, Li said that under the complicated circumstances, Eurasia should stay committed to building an open world economy.

As the largest inter-governmental platform, the ASEM Summit has played a key role in expanding ties and cooperation among member countries and boosting regional communication and connectivity.

The hard-won momentum of the world economic recovery still calls for adherence to open development, the premier said, urging the two continents to resolutely safeguard the multilateral trading system and consolidate the foundation for economic globalization and free trade.

Countries should continue to facilitate free trade and investment to provide opportunities for the global economy, he said.

In the joint communique of the 17th meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Dushanbe, the member states agreed to "consistently strengthening an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rule-based multilateral trading system, as well as preventing any unilateral protectionist measures in trade."

Li called on the SCO members to launch feasibility studies on establishing an SCO free trade area, a specific measure to fulfill their commitment to upgrading multilateral cooperation.

Claudia Vernott, founder and director of China-EU Association for Digital spoke highly of the joint commitment to building an open economy by way of wider cooperation and reforms of the WTO and existing global mechanisms.

"It is the responsibility of both Europe and China to join efforts to make sure that multilateralism could be sustained," Vernott said.

DEEPENING ALL-LEVEL COOPERATION

During the Chinese premier's visits, a joint and firm voice could be heard at bilateral and multilateral meetings calling to bolster pragmatic economic cooperation, with the signing of agreements in various fields.

When meeting with Li, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon expressed willingness to enhance cooperation with China in such areas as transportation, agriculture, energy and infrastructure construction as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Having already joined China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), people in Tajikistan as well as other countries along the land route are making strides towards a brighter future.

The stride is also made in China-Netherlands ties, as the two countries' pragmatic cooperation in such fields as trade and investment enjoys continuous growth.

Over 900 Dutch companies are doing business and investing in China and the number is growing, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at the China-Netherlands Business Forum. Ahead of the event, enterprises of the two countries signed a series of agreements worth nearly 10 billion U.S. dollars.

More opportunities would be brought to Dutch companies along with the advancing of the BRI, the boom of China's new growth drivers and upgrading of the industrial structure, and its innovation-driven development strategy, Li noted.

On the sidelines of both the SCO prime ministers' meeting and the ASEM Summit, joint stance of fostering all-round cooperation was repeated at more than 10 bilateral meetings, which have testified the earnest efforts and faith from China and its partners.

CREATING CONNECTIVITY

Enjoying the natural privileges of the supercontinent, Asia and Europe should first and foremost promote infrastructure connectivity by building transportation and logistics networks.

In Li's remarks, countries involved need to enhance "soft connectivity" of systems, policies, rules and standards in order to invigorate elements such as capital, technology, services and data.

Boosting the geographic connectivity through projects like China's BRI offers great benefits to people living on the continent.

China's determination to broaden the network of BRI beneficiaries is strengthened as more and more people in participant countries live better because of economic growth and jobs, global competitiveness and trade as well as the flow of goods and services.

In his speech delivered at the ASEM Summit, Li expressed hope for the further alignment of the BRI with the development strategies of regional countries, as well as other connectivity blueprints like the Eurasian connectivity strategy proposed by the European Union.

China takes the Eurasian continent as the core of BRI construction, which originated from China but belongs to the whole world, Li said.

To cultivate connectivity between Asia and Europe, China has taken every chance to assure the world of its opening-up policy and willingness to cooperate and communicate.

"Past experience shows that development cannot be achieved behind d doors, and opening up is the right way forward," Li said when attending the SCO meeting.

China's firm attitude was valued by countries at the inter-governmental meetings, where they reaffirmed support for the BRI and advocated the establishment of a more open and mutually beneficial region.

Pierre-Yves Jeholet, vice-president of Belgium's Walloon government and minister of economy, hailed the Chinese premier's visit as an important one which strengthens both diplomatic relations and trade.

"I think diplomatic and trade relations go hand in hand," the official said, adding that "we must look to other countries and promote this connection" so that the projects can witness joint contribution and shared benefits.


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