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BRI conducive to common prosperity, Macao forum told

Saturday ,Oct 19, 2019

A China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable session is held during the World Chinese Business and Economic Summit in Macao on Oct 17, 2019. During the panel, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes (1st left), director of Macao Government Tourism Office; Wilfred Wong Ying-wai (2nd left), president and chief operating officer of Sands China; Deborah Biber (3rd left), director of the Pacific Basin Economic Council and moderator of the session; Wang Wanli (center), executive director of the Hong Kong, Macao and Regional Development Research Department at the China Development Institute; Diana Chou (3rd right), chairman of L’Voyage; Oh Ei Sun (2nd right), senior fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs; and Simon Lee (right), managing director of STM Developments, share their views on opportunities in the Greater Bay Area for Southeast Asian companies. (VENUS O/ CHINA DAILY)

The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is conducive for strengthening regional cooperation and collaboration for common prosperity, speakers told a recent forum in Macao.

For the Philippines, a maritime member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it is keen to explore new opportunities as China works to revive the ancient maritime Silk Road that once passed through Southeast Asia, said Delia D Albert, former foreign secretary of the Philippines. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a key component of the BRI which also includes the land route of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Albert, who is also a senior adviser of leading Philippine professional services firm SGV & Co, was speaking at the 2019 World Chinese Business and Economic Summit (WCBES) held in Macao on Oct 17-18.

As an example, Albert said China used to export its silk and porcelain products to Europe through Manila, adding that China had been a great partner of Southeast Asian countries since ancient times.

This partnership had been successfully revived in recent years.

By the end of 2018, China had been ASEAN’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. ASEAN became China’s second-largest trading partner, after the European Union, in the first half of 2019. 

In September, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte concluded his fifth visit to China in three years. Albert said the frequent visits were because the Philippines could benefit from the BRI to enhance the connectivity of the archipelago of seven thousand islands. The BRI could also help to achieve the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, a priority task for the regional bloc of 10 countries. 

Wilfred Wong Ying-wai (2nd left), president and chief operating officer of Sands China, shares his views during the special panel in Macao on Oct 17, 2019. (VENUS O/ CHINA DAILY)

Under the theme “Enhancing Partnerships and Shared Prosperity through the BRI”, the summit brought together government officials, industry leaders and experts to share their insight and perspectives on the BRI. The summit was co-organized by the Kingsley Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific (KSI) with other regional organizations. China Daily is the summit’s media partner.

Malaysian Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok said in her opening remarks that the summit provided an “excellent platform” to connect the East and the West with the global Chinese diaspora like herself.

One of the panellists at the summit, Chin Yew Sin, advisor for Asia Pacific region at the Global One Belt One Road Association, said the construction of sea port connectivity should be promoted under the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as this is important for exporting goods and will help reduce transportation cost.

For example, goods can now be directly transported between Qinzhou, a coastal city in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and Kuantan on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, thanks to the establishment of sister industrial parks in the two cities under the framework of “two countries, twin parks”, a pioneering model of international cooperation under the BRI.

Chin said the BRI also had the potential to create the largest free trade area in the world if all its participating countries and regions sign a free trade agreement.

As of end-July 2019, 136 countries and 30 international organizations have signed 194 Belt and Road cooperation documents with the Chinese side, according to the Belt and Road Portal, the initiative’s official multilingual website operated by the State Information Center.

Ravindra Ngo, president of the Cambodian Association of Hong Kong, said digital connectivity through smart cities and new technologies is also an essential element of the BRI.

Ngo said the Cambodian government supports the digital transformation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but there are various challenges including the lack of talent and infrastructure to build the ecosystem. He said joint cooperation among BRI countries will be conducive to tackle these challenges.

Michael Yeoh, chairman of the World Chinese Business and Economic Summit Organizing Committee and president of the Kingsley Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, delivers his welcoming remarks at a China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable event held during the World Chinese Business and Economic Summit in Macao on Oct 17, 2019. (VENUS O/ CHINA DAILY)

“The economic opportunity (of the BRI) is the bond that brings us together,” said Wang Huiyao, counselor of the Chinese State Council and president of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization(CCG), a co-organizer of the WCBES.

Wang said the BRI, especially the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, will provide a big boost for the future of Asia.

He said the challenge for the region will be to build a new leading powerhouse. In this regard, he thinks the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in China will be the next innovation powerhouse for Asia.

As an important support pillar for the BRI, the Bay Area comprises nine Pearl River Delta cities in South China’s Guangdong province and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.

A special session on the Bay Area was held by China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable during the WCBES on Oct 17, with the theme “Greater Bay Area – Connecting Hong Kong, Macao and Southern China, Enhancing Collaboration and Partnership with Southeast Asia”.  

“The development of the mega Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has taken off, and is pushing full steam ahead for the benefit of enterprises,” said Zhou Li, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily Asia Pacific.

He noted that Southeast Asian companies, in particular those with a vast pool of Chinese business links and information, will find the opportunities created by the Bay Area attractive and potentially rewarding.

In his welcoming remarks at the roundtable, Michael Yeoh, chairman of the WCBES organizing committee, said “The Belt and Road Initiative will be a powerful force for regional connectivity to enhance prosperity”. Yeoh is also the president of KSI, the summit’s co-organizer.

Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, president and chief operating officer of Sands China – a subsidiary of global resort developer Las Vegas Sands – told the roundtable that the Bay Area has its unique advantages.

For example, Hong Kong is the world’s biggest offshore renminbi business center, Macao is one of the region’s biggest tourism destinations, and Shenzhen is recognized as the hub of high technology.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said more collaboration should be formed between the Bay Area and other city clusters around the world, including those in Southeast Asia, to help develop entrepreneurship.

From China Daily,2019-10-19
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