Xi makes Belt and Road pitch to Pacific Island nations

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping waits for his documents during a signing ceremony with Bolivia's President Evo Morales at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 19, 2018. Greg Baker/Pool via Reuters

MELBOURNE,15 NOVEMBER 2018 (THE AUSTRALIAN) – Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed for Pacific island nations to sign up to the Belt and Road ­Initiative ahead of his arrival at the APEC conference in Papua New Guinea today.

In his pitch, outlined in a letter to regional nations published in PNG newspaper the Post-Courier, Xi said he was convinced the BRI would “open up new pathways for Pacific island countries to enhance business ties and connectivity with China”.

PNG was the first South Pacific country to sign up to the BRI.

Cook Islands ­Finance Minister Mark Brown this week confirmed that his government would also sign on.

“China will expand practical co-operation with Pacific island countries in trade and investment, and encourage their active participation in the Belt and Road Initi­ative in line with their own national conditions, strengths and development strategies,” Mr Xi wrote.

China’s Foreign Ministry vice-minister Zheng Zeguang said  Xi would announce “important measures for further co-operation with island nations” during the PNG visit.

The Chinese leader will also host a side meeting with Pacific ­island nations that have formal diplomatic relations with Beijing.

The BRI has had mixed success in Asia, and a number of countries are now reviewing projects that are a part of the scheme, often ­because of the large debts ­involved.

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