China's Xi appeals to foreign leaders for freer trade

"In my meetings with President Xi, Premier Li and other leaders, we exchanged views on the global economy, how to strengthen cooperation to tackle global challenges, and the role of the International Monetary Fund in supporting its member countries".

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday wrapped up the inaugural summit dedicated to his cornerstone diplomatic initiative for Chinese-style globalization with an invitation to world leaders attending the gathering to reconvene in 2019. Xi spoke against protectionism and stressed that development should help all parties: saying that policy coordination needed to be improved and that "beggar-thy-neighbor policies" should be rejected.

"We need to seek results through greater openness and cooperation, avoid fragmentation, refrain from setting inhibitive thresholds for cooperation or pursuing exclusive arrangements, and reject protectionism".

China has signed Belt and Road-related agreements with 68 countries and global organisations.

Asian governments that want to use ties with Washington to offset China's growing dominance have been thrown off balance by Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed regional trade pact.

"India was openly sceptical of China's Belt and Road Forum (BRF) hours ahead of the opening of the event, mainly due to concerns over the CPEC, a key project of the B&R, and whether it might influence the disputed Kashmir region", the report said.

He said the world must create conditions that promote open development and encourage the building of systems of "fair, reasonable and transparent global trade and investment rules".

"We are of the firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised global norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality".

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a news conference at the end of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China May 15, 2017.

The focus of the forum, he noted, was on encouraging Chinese firms to go overseas and the channelling of Chinese investments abroad. The diplomat said some European nations taking part in the summit's trade panel chose to rebuff the text because they believe it does not sufficiently address European concerns surrounding transparency of public procurement and social and environmental standards.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said Monday that EU member states would not be signing ministerial statements connected to the summit, though he downplayed the significance.

"But it's not an issue".

"No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity", Baglay said.

India declined to send a high-level delegation to the summit amid concern about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship OBOR project in which China has invested $US46 billion. The $46 billion corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir that New Delhi claims as its own.

Others at the summit warned sustainable lending practices were needed to ensure countries hosting the hundreds of projects were not saddled with unsustainable debts.

  • Kyle Peterson