By: Hania Elkady
The belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held on May 14-15 in the capital city of China. According to CGTN twenty-nine heads of states participated in the “Belt and road” initiative, along with 1,500 delegates from over 130 nations. China is currently constructing the world’s largest infrastructure programme connecting Europe and Asia, in a USD 900 billion project.
The summit is the most anticipated meeting since the Chinese President first announced the concept in 2013. It aims to rally international support for the project, encompassing powerful allies such as the Russian and Turkish presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdoğan. Meanwhile, India, the project’s most vocal opponents, deemed the initiative “little more than a colonial enterprise” that would accumulate large debts on the communities, according to the Times of India.
The mega project is comprised of a land-based economic Belt, as well as a Maritime Silk road. The former connects numerous Asian countries with Eastern Europe through railways and roads, bridges and tunnels, along with pipelines, energy projects, industrial parks and logistics centres. Simultaneously, the Maritime Silk Road is a sea route stretching from the South China Sea and South East Asia, through the Indian Ocean and the Middle East area into the eastern Mediterranean, in addition to other directions. Moreover, the Maritime road has some links with the land- based projects.
The preparation of the project is routed back to 2013, as the second-largest economy in the world aims to connect the Chinese market with almost the rest of the world markets. This move comes after the recent economic slow-down witnessed by China, whereas, it is expected for the scheme to raise the living standards of 70% of the global population in a geo-economic revolution. Western powers voiced concerns over the true intentions behind China’s multi billion dollars project, where one G7 leader, the Italian prime minister, attended the summit, according to the guardian.
Egypt sent several ministers to participate in the event, after the Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Qabil met with the Chinese Ambassador in Cairo to discuss the future of economic cooperation between Egypt and China, according to the State Information Service official website.
In 2016, Egypt signed an agreement with China to establish business councils, as a signatory state on China’s One Belt, One Road trade initiative, as reported by Enterprise press. The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce is the entity responsible for signing an agreement with China Council for the Promotion of International Trade establishing the respective business council.
Egypt formerly joined the Silk Road Economic Belt trade Union in June 2015, as well as, becoming a founding member of the China-led Asian infrastructure Investment Bank. Additionally, the Commercial International Bank in Egypt (CIB) was announced as an African partner for the initiative by the Bank of China.