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China Ends OBOR Summit Positively, Might Build $8 Billion Rail Link With Nepal

Chinese President Xi Jinping and 29 other heads of state on Monday (15 May) reaffirmed their commitment to build an open economy and ensure free and inclusive trade under the ambitious Belt and Road initiative led by Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping and 29 other heads of state, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, on Monday (15 May) reaffirmed their commitment to build an open economy and ensure free and inclusive trade under the ambitious Belt and Road initiative led by Beijing.

As a two-day summit on the project in Beijing wound up, the 30 nations also agreed to promote a rules-based, non-discriminatory trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core and to oppose protectionism, according to a joint communique signed by their leaders.

In the communique, China and other nations underlined the importance of expanding trade and investment based on a level playing field.

“It is our hope through the Belt and Road development, we will unleash new economic forces for global growth, build new platforms for global development, and rebalance economic globalisation so mankind will move closer to a community of common destiny,” Jinping said at the close of the event.

Jinping on Sunday also pledged $124 billion for the initiative, which aims to bolster China’s global leadership ambitions by building infrastructure and trade links between Asia, Africa, and Europe and beyond.

Nepal, which India considers under its ‘zone of influence’, is in talks for an agreement with China to lay a 550-km long railway line connecting China’s western Tibet region to Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu at an estimated cost of $8 billion.

“Now that we are a member of OBOR (One Belt One Road), we can get some specific project assistance from China. We expect it for the railways. Once that happens, we can increase our trade and invite more tourists to Nepal,” Yug Raj Pandey, an under-secretary at Nepal’s ministry of finance, told Reuters.

The two nations are also in talks for a free trade agreement, with China agreeing to conduct a feasibility study. The Himalayan nation is trying to lessen its dependence on India ever since India’s take on the Madhesi issue.

From the Indian sub-continent, prime ministers of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, deputy prime minister of Nepal and state counsellor of Myanmar attended the meeting in Beijing. India was the only big South Asian nation to boycott the event, citing its reservations on the $55-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the OBOR initiative that runs through Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“I have no hesitation in saying we have some serious reservations about it because of sovereignty issues,” Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had earlier said.

Even Vietnam, which has had rough ties with China, was represented by its President. Others present the summit included US commerce department official Alan Turley, Japan’s deputy trade minister and a Syrian Cabinet minister.

“All countries should respect each other's sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other’s development paths and social systems, and each other’s core interests and major concerns,” the Chinese President said at the summit.

Nations like Germany and US expressed their concerns to the initiative. While US stressed on adherence of international standards, Germany’s minister of economic affairs and energy said ‘improvements are needed in cost-transparency’ at the summit.

The fund for the project comes from China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China, which have collectively provided $200 billion in loans throughout Asia, the Middle East and even Africa already.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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