BEIJING – Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera said on Friday China’s Belt and Road Initiative should be governed by the principles of transparency and respect for the identity of the countries involved in the ambitious infrastructure development project to connect the world for global trade.
Piñera applauded the progress the initiative has made since it began in 2013 with a stated objective to expand trade roots among member countries and build new infrastructures on land and water especially in Eurasia, Africa and America.
He said that “in just five years it has had very fruitful results” thanks to “China making an effort to promote a climate of greater understanding and collaboration between countries.”
Piñera was speaking in Beijing at the second international conference on the project, which has generated doubts with many countries suspecting that it may be China’s tool of cultivating its influence and burden countries with debt.
China has rejected the charge and has claimed that it has made a direct investment of 90 billion yuan ($13,387 million) in the countries involved in the project since it was inaugurated in 2013 by President Xi Jinping.
The second Belt and Road forum is being attended by 37 heads of state and government along with representatives of some 150 countries and international organizations.
The Chilean president called for the strengthening of principles such as “free trade, respect for intellectual property, open markets, multilateralism and the need to modernize the WTO (World Trade Organization) to have trade on the basis of rules agreed, and fair competition between countries.”
Regarding transparency in the initiative which President Xi has promised to reinforce during his speech, Piñera hoped that “things will get better and clearer since there is no better police than the public and better disinfectant than sunlight.”
Earlier on Thursday, Piñera also spoke about the initiative at the Tsinghua University, of which he was appointed as honorary professor.
The Chilean President stressed that “China is emerging again as a great world power” – both in terms of economic development and innovation capacities in the fields of science and technology.
The Belt and Road initiative, in Piñera’s view, would serve to clear doubts of those who are skeptical of free trade and multilateralism and whose doubts have increased owing to a lower growth and excessive levels of inequality which has provoked a protectionist reaction that “is not the best solution for the problems facing the world.”
He said the second Belt and Road Forum would serve to send a message of optimism and hope to the world, “strengthening the values of collaboration, free trade and multilateralism.”
The Chilean president established a parallel between the Belt and Road operations and Latin American projects like the Pacific Alliance and Prosur, a developmental initiative South America proposed by Piñera.
He said such initiatives work “on very specific areas and on very specific projects” that establish “wide spaces of cooperation” to “improve the development capacity of countries.”
Piñera extended an invitation to the leaders who attended the conference to attend the summits that Chile will host this year, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the global Climate Change Conference COP25.
Regarding climate change, Piñera warned that “we are the last generation who can do something to prevent” climate change and global warming turning into a tragedy and urged that the Belt and Road initiatives are “sustainable and respectful of nature and future generations.”