BEIJING, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- China has made positive progress in promoting the Belt and Road economic and trade cooperation this year, pointed out Chu Shijia, director of the general affairs department of the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on December 6.
At present, the cumulative trade value between China and Belt and Road countries has exceeded 7.5 trillion U.S. dollars, and China has become the largest trading partner of 25 countries, according to Chu.
In the first 10 months of this year, the value of goods trade between China and Belt and Road countries reached nearly 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars, up 4.1 percent year on year, which is higher than the overall growth rate of China's foreign trade during the same period.
Since six years ago, the economic and trade cooperation carried out under the context of the Belt and Road Initiative has achieved fruitful results. In addition to the continuous expansion of trade scale, there are several cooperation areas with eye-catching results:
-- Two-way investment keeps expanding. According to statistics, Chinese enterprises have invested about 110 billion U.S. dollars in countries jointly constructing the Belt and Road, with the total value of overseas contracted projects exceeding 750 billion U.S. dollars. At the same time, Belt and Road countries have invested nearly 50 billion U.S. dollars directly in China, and set up more than 21,000 foreign-funded enterprises.
In the first 10 months of this year, China's non-financial outbound direct investment (ODI) in Belt and Road countries surpassed 11 billion U.S. dollars, and the value of newly-signed contracts for overseas projects exceeded 110 billion U.S. dollars. During the same time period, 6.1 billion U.S. dollars has been directly invested in China by Belt and Road countries, and nearly 4,500 foreign-invested enterprises have been established.
--Major projects have been advancing steadily. Up to now, a series of Belt and Road construction projects have been successfully built, including the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge and the Piraeus Port.
Inaugurated in August, 2018, the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is an iconic project of the Maldives and China in co-building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which has also started a new life for the Maldivians. It links the Maldivian capital of Male with neighboring island Hulhule, where the island nation's only international airport is located, making it possible to travel between the two islands within five minutes.
The largest port in Greece, Piraeus Port, has been revitalized with the help of Chinese capital and management experience. The global ranking of its container throughput jumped from 93rd in 2010 to 32nd in 2018, contributing more than 600 million euros to the Greek economy, and creating more than 10,000 jobs for local people.
Other projects have also made positive progress. For example, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the construction of the 392-km Sukkur-Multan Motorway has been completed in July, and the expressway section of the Karakorum Highway (KKH) project phase two was inaugurated in November. Likewise, China-Laos railway tunnels' construction has been continuing to make breakthroughs, as one more major tunnel was drilled through in November in northern Laos.
Two sides of the first highway bridge connecting China and Russia across the Heilongjiang River were joined together in May. With its help, cargo volume between China's border city Heihe and the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk will see a 10-fold increase to 3 million tonnes. What's more, the reconstructing work of the Friendship Bridge between China and Nepal has been basically completed, bringing the facilities connectivity of the region to a new level.
-- New progress has been made in the construction of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones. Development of the Thai-Chinese Rayong Industrial Zone, the Haier-Ruba Economic Zone in Pakistan, as well as the Sino-Hungarian Borsod Industrial Zone, has been steadily moving forward, and the construction of China-Belarus Industrial Park has seen early stage achievements.
Data show that Chinese enterprises have invested a total of 34 billion U.S. dollars in the overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in Belt and Road countries, successfully attracting about 4,500 enterprises to enter these zones, and have paid 2.8 billion U.S. dollars in taxes and fees to local governments, creating more than 300,000 jobs in related regions.
--Construction of free trade zones (FTZ) has been accelerated. So far, China has signed five free trade agreements with thirteen Belt and Road countries. Since the beginning of this year, China has upgraded the free trade zones with ASEAN, Singapore, and Chile, signed free trade agreements with Mauritius, and concluded the FTA upgrade negotiations with New Zealand. In addition, the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement has officially come into effect in December.
--Cooperation mechanism has been improved. At present, 167 countries and international organizations have signed a total of 198 Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. To further promote the development of economic and trade cooperation and promptly resolve the arising problems during the process, China has set up bilateral investment cooperation working groups with 44 countries, unimpeded trade working groups with seven countries, and e-commerce cooperation mechanisms with 22 countries.
Moreover, China has entered third-party market cooperation agreements with multiple countries, as an effort to expand the "circle of friends" under the Belt and Road Initiative. (Edited by Li Wenxin, [email protected].org)