Britain calls China's Belt and Road Initiative a 'vision'

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said the Belt and Road Initiative must work for everyone for it to turn into a sustainable reality and offered British expertise in project financing.
British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said the Belt and Road Initiative must work for everyone for it to turn into a sustainable reality and offered British expertise in project financing.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Britain is committed to help realise the potential of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said on Friday (April 26), describing the policy as a "vision".

Speaking at a summit in Beijing on China's programme to re-create the old Silk Road joining China with Asia and Europe, Mr Hammond said the BRI must work for everyone for it to turn into a sustainable reality and offered British expertise in project financing.

"The Belt and Road Initiative has tremendous potential to spread prosperity and sustainable development, touching as it does potentially 70 per cent of the world's population, a project of truly epic ambition," Mr Hammond said.

"The UK is committed to helping to realise the potential of the BRI and to doing so in way that works for all whose lives are touched by the project."

Britain is eager to forge closer ties with Beijing. The world's fifth-biggest economy will look to re-invent itself as a global trading nation after it leaves the European Union - though it remains unclear when or if there will be Brexit.

Britain and China will hold the next round of their Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) in mid-June in London, Mr Hammond said on Thursday, after months of media reports that talks had been delayed by diplomatic tension.

In the past, the EFD has been used to announce closer cooperation on trade and banking initiatives, and to sign commercial contracts.

STRAINED TIES

However, relations between London and Beijing have been strained in recent years, most notably after a British warship sailed close to islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea last August.

Prior to that, China and Britain, which have talked of a"golden era" of relations, had agreed to look at the possibility of reaching a "top notch" post-Brexit free trade deal that promised an important political win for the British government.

 
 
 
 

"The BRI is an extraordinarily ambitious vision," Mr Hammond said on Friday. "To turn that vision into a sustainable reality, it must work for everyone involved."

To support the sheer scale of the initiative, private finance will need to play a bigger role in the infrastructure projects, he said.

To unlock that private finance and reassure investors, a recognised infrastructure asset class for BRI projects must be created, with standardised contract terms and dutiful reporting that global investors will recognise and trust, Mr Hammond said.

Amid the upheavals on the domestic front after Parliament three times rejected the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and other EU leaders, Britain has increasingly leaned on China.

On Beijing's BRI programme, Mr Hammond said: "Our offer is to bring together the best of Chinese manufacturing, engineering and construction, with the best of British project design and legal, technical and financial services expertise, as we promise the golden era of UK-China relations to deliver world class sustainable infrastructure for the 21st century."