Big  step forward for Belt  & Road Initiative

Published March 26, 2019, 12:50 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON MAR 26, 2019Italy became the first Group of Seven (G7) country to join the global strategic partnership known as the Belt and Road Initiative  as  Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte  assigned a memorandum of understanding with China  President  Xi   Jinping  in Rome last Saturday.

 The  new global partnership,   also known as the New Silk Road,  recalls the ancient Silk Road that linked China with the Middle East and Europe  from 130 BC to 1453 AD. That  ancient  road  connected  the two principal centers of civilization of  that  time for over 1,500 years, before it was blocked by  geo-political events in the Middle East, forcing the West to seek  new routes  by sea  to the  Far East.

Today China is seeking to revive that ancient trade route, this time with steel and concrete, optic fiber cables and satellite links, power plants and factories, and investment funds and new technologies.  The new Silk Road seeks to link over 65 countries and economies   in a process they hope will foster peace and prosperity.

Explaining Italy’s interest in  the  Belt and Road Initiative  ahead of other  members of  the European Union  with its policy of dealing with China as a bloc,  Italian Foreign Minister   Enzo  Moavero  said, “Italy is a major manufacturing and exporting  country  for whom it is very important to have access to such a large market as China.” At the China  International  Import  Expo  in November, 2018,  President  Xi Jinping  had announced  that China will be importing and needing services amounting  to $2 trillion a year.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines has  been among  the first  supporters of  the Belt and Road Initiative, with President  Duterte  due to attend  the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing next month. The ancient  Silk Road  was a largely land  route  from China through Central Asia  to   Iran, Turkey, Moscow, Netherlands, and Italy. The new Silk Road will  also  have  a  sea  route that will go through Southeast Asia,  India,  Africa, on to Greece and Italy via  the  Suez Canal.

Secretary  of Foreign Affairs  Teodoro  Locsin  Jr. was on an official visit  last week in China where he said the mutual  respect and friendship between President Duterte and Presiden Xi jinping  have “laid the foundation of a revitalized  relationship between the Philippines and China which have always been friends and never enemies.”

The Philippines which played a vital role  in the Galleon Trade which once connected Asia to the New World  in  South America  expects  to also play a major  role in  the new Silk Road  that is the Belt and Road Initiative,  with Davao expected  to be a key  port  in  the  sea route   of the developing  trade community.

With  Italy’s  formal  entry,  the Belt and Road Initiative takes a big step forward  towards its goal of  greater global  economic progress.