China’s ambassador to Australia has called on the nation to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative, saying Australia will benefit from the initiative.
Speaking at the Belt and Road Initiative in Australia conference in Darwin on Wednesday, Ambassador Cheng Jingye said China will work with other countries to uphold free trade in the world.
“We are determined to work with other countries around the globe, including Australia, to uphold free trade and multilateral trading regime,” he told the conference.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has expressed doubts over the benefits Australia would derive from the initiative.
Cheng dismissed those concerns, saying that the Belt and Road Initiative “which aims for win-win outcome, has nothing to do with geopolitics. Instead of China’s solo performance, it is a symphony played by all participants.”
“We do not impose business deals on others. Extensive consultation means that all countries, big or small, join the discussion of Belt and Road co-operation on an equal footing,” he said.
“The close and strong trade and investment relations as well as people-to-people links between China and Australia provide necessary conditions for both sides to carry out different kinds of cooperation in Belt and Road development.”
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which aim at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
New Zealand, one of Australia’s closest neighbors, is one of the countries that have already signed up to the initiative.
John Brumby, former Premier of Victoria and President of the Australia China Business Council (ACBC), earlier in July called for Australia to join the initiative.
“It would send a signal that we are ready and willing to engage in an Asia that is increasingly a world centre not only of growth but of innovation,” he wrote in a column for News Corp Australia.
“It would also demonstrate that we welcome China’s efforts to connect economies at a time when some developed nations are heading in a protectionist direction.”