Belt and Road Initiative: NZ looks to seize the opportunities
China’s Belt and Road initiative could be transformative for New Zealand, said Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the New Zealand China Council.
Jacobi told Xinhua that while much of the attention is focussed on tapping into China’s capacity to fund and build large infrastructure projects, there was a much bigger prize which could result from New Zealand’s participation in Belt and Road initiatives.
“Belt and Road has the potential to be transformative for us if we can organise ourselves to take advantage of these opportunities,” he said. “I’m talking about better connectivity and integration with the world, the way goods and services move along the Belt and Road.
“This is a vision for a better connected world, when there are risks today of a more closed world,” Jacobi said. “The Chinese want to make it a more open world and we have to be part of this.”
Jacobi said he was not downplaying the pressing need in New Zealand and Auckland, in particular, for access to funding and expertise in order to complete the $32.5 billion in infrastructure projects the Government has slated for the next five years.
There are many groups, such as a recent public-private delegation to China, comprising of engineers from Babbage Consultants, Beca and other companies, as well as representatives from Auckland Transport and national electricity system operator, Transpower, that may well see Chinese companies and financiers expediting the much needed building of transport infrastructure.
Jacobi says that is important work but more important was collaboration with China on trade facilitation and the amendment of customs regulations and rules to allow a freer flow of goods and services along the road.
The recently completed Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, illustrated China’s commitment to the initiative, in what will be a long-term ongoing investment in global interconnectivity, said Jacobi.
BELT AND ROAD FORUM
New Zealand sent a delegation to the Belt and Road Forum, which was an important milestone in the globalisation and implementation of the initiative, said William Zhao, co-founder of the Oceania Silk Road Network (OSRN).
The OSRN was formed to promote cooperation among Government institutions, think tanks, industrial associations, financial institutions, social organisations, media and international multilateral and bilateral organisations, as well to integrate political, economic, social, cultural and ecological resources, he said.
Zhao, the former chief executive of Yashili New Zealand Dairy Company, said it was important New Zealand was seen as a key supporter of the Belt and Road project among Chinese Government officials, given the eminent international representatives at the event, including from the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the World Health Organisation and trade delegates from across Oceania, Asia, Africa and Europe.
The Chinese Government signed memoranda of understanding on Belt and Road cooperation with the governments of Mongolia, Pakistan, Nepal, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Timor-Leste, Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia.
In order to deepen project cooperation for infrastructure connectivity, China signed agreements on international transportation and strategy coordination with Uzbekistan, Turkey and Belarus.
On expanding industrial investment and enhancing trade connectivity, China signed cooperation agreements with 30 countries, including Pakistan, Vietnam, Belarus, Mongolia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Palestine and Lebanon.
THE NZ-CHINA RELATIONSHIP
New Zealand signed a Belt and Road memorandum of understanding with China during the State visit by Premier Li Keqiang in March.
The OSRN’s Zhao said New Zealand was the first Western developed country to participate in the Belt and Road project, continuing a long history of close cooperation between the two nations.
Diplomatic ties were first established 45 years ago and New Zealand was the first Western country to acknowledge China’s full market economy status, the first to sign a bilateral trade agreement and the first to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
“These are important milestones in the China-New Zealand relationship,” said Zhao. “New Zealand’s leading status among Western friends of China will serve New Zealand well as it seeks to deepen the commercial, social and cultural relationships in win-win projects of mutual interest.
“New Zealand and Auckland, in particular, have pressing infrastructural needs and what OSRN is trying to do is put the right people and organisations together to achieve great outcomes for everybody,” he said.