OBOR Forum starts today

Dhaka,  Fri,  22 September 2017
Published : 13 May 2017, 22:42:50

OBOR Forum starts today

28 heads of state to meet
Jubair Hasan from Beijing

The much-awaited China's flagship 'One Belt One Road' (OBOR) Forum begins today in Beijing where 28 heads of state across the world will meet for international cooperation of shared and equal socioeconomic outcomes.

A high-level delegation from Bangladesh is expected to attend the two-day forum to discuss various issues like prospects of BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) economic corridor which is a key OBOR project connecting to resourceful Indian ocean.

Though experts see a little hope for BCIM corridor because of economic rivalry between two Asian economic powerhouses - India and China, they think Bangladesh could actively participate in the global forum and place other key issues relating to infrastructure development, trade and business as a whole.

Besides BCIM, they said, Bangladesh could place some key other issues on the table like reducing trade gap between the friendly countries and allowing duty-free access of 22 major Bangladeshi products to Chinese markets for which Bangladesh has been fighting for several years.

Wang Dehua, Director, Institute for South and Central Asia Studies in Shanghai, said the initiative created an opportunity for equal and shared economic benefits especially for the emerging economies like Bangladesh who need investments for developing physical infrastructures.

Terming Bangladesh a trusted trade partner of China, he said Bangladesh made a significant progress in socioeconomic areas and it should play an active role in the forum by properly utilising the platform of shared destiny.

When asked about the future of BCIM in the forum, Mr Dehua, who has long been involved in the BCIM corridor, sees a little hope for the special economic corridor, saying that mistrust and lack of understanding between India and China was the main reason behind its poor progress.

"But I'm quite optimistic. I hope both countries will resolve all the differences through discussion for the sake of people in the region," he said.

Recent reports released in China show Pakistan has received more than US$ 46 billion worth investment after the launching of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor).

But Pakistan is not alone in its association with China.

According to Wang Dehua, Sri Lanka has benefited to the tune of US$ 1.5 billion while Bangladesh has signed more than 20 agreements amounting over $ 24 billion. "Myanmar too will have quite a lot of projects as will Maldives and Nepal," he said.

Chinese development projects in Myanmar include Letpadaung copper mine, KyaukPhyu port and oil and gas pipelines. Nepal decided to sign a framework agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative few days ago. And infra projects in Maldives include China-Maldives Friendship Bridge and a new airport runway in Male to boost tourism.

Having located in favourable geographical location and huge market base, Bangladesh officially joined the OBOR during Chinese President Xi Jinping's Dhaka visit later last year aiming to improve its infrastructure and job creation, which are believed to be the most key factors for achieving Bangladesh's government vision of middle-income nation by 2021.

According to the statistics of Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh's merchandised export to China was US$ 808.14 million in the fiscal year (FY) 2016 which was US$ 319.66 in FY'11 while Bangladesh Bank data showed that import from China was worth around US$ 9.8 billion against US$ 5.9 billion five years ago.

Hu Shisheng, Director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the OBOR has five components like physical connectivity and bilateral trade. "Bangladesh being an OBOR country can take the forum to place their demands and discuss the developments of the agreements signed during Chinese president's Dhaka visit," he said.

Delwar Hossain, Deputy Chief of Mission of Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing, said the trade relations between the countries have been growing in recent years. "Being a big economy, China should gain trust of the emerging economy through seriously taking their pains into consideration. Thus it can make it a real win-win venture."

According to a report recently released in Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China's total value of trade with countries along the Belt and Road Initiative routes has reached around US$ 953.59 billion in 2016, accounting for 25.7 per cent of the country's total foreign trade volume.

The report shows that China's exports to countries along the routes have maintained growth momentum since 2011, hitting a value of US$ 587.48 billion in 2016, the highest in recent years.

Official data shows that China has so far invested over US$ 50 billion under the OBOR initiative and planned to invest around US$ 500 billion in next five years. It will also build 56 economic zones in the OBOR countries with an investment of US$ 18.5 billion which will create 180,000 jobs.

More on pages 14 and 18

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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