Executive Director speech at Belt and Road CEO Conference (en)
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to the Belt and Road CEO Conference.
The CEO Conference is a welcome innovative addition to this year’s “Belt and Road” Forum. It reflects the importance of private sector participation in the “Belt and Road” initiative and provides a great opportunity for companies active in this initiative to exchange and cooperate with each other.
As a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, the International Trade Centre aims to help small and medium sized enterprises and developing countries improve their competitiveness in the international markets.
Engaging with the private sector is part of who we are hence our pride at being with you today.
I would like to share three considerations with you.
First, private sector participation is essential to ensure sustainability, vitality and efficiency of the Belt and Road Initiative. Governments along cannot solve all development challenges, we need private sector to join forces to make the initiative as impactful as possible. It is in the interest of the private sector to participate:
- Because, there are increasing opportunities in the global south. A greater part of the “Belt and Road” is in the global south. The share of South-South trade in total world exports has grown from 15% in 2006 to 21% in 2016, and e-commerce is a big part of the growth. South-South investment constituted 55% of world FDI flows in 2014, compared to 20% in 2000. Developing markets in the global south should be high on the agenda of companies with a global ambition.
- Because improved infrastructure and connectivity as Belt and Road investments roll out will generate more business opportunities for private sector. We already see this from trade figures: trade between China and Belt and Road countries reached $1.3 trillion in 2018, accounting for almost 30% of China’s total trade, and growing faster than China's total trade.
- Because the private sector can benefit from strategic partnership building efforts: better policy coordination to remove trade and investment barriers, better financial cooperation to put resources to the best use and closer people-to-people ties.
My message for you is to deepen your engagement, to explore the opportunities, to be ready to invest. Embrace the Belt and Road Initiative to do business as you do good.
Second, being part of the initiative is not enough, we need to work together to make it more impactful.
A Chinese saying goes: “all things are difficult before they are easy”. To make them easy, we should remember three words: partnership, inclusiveness, and sustainability.
Partnership. “Belt and Road” initiative is not only about China, but also about sustainable development of all its partners across the world.
At a time of trade tensions and rising protectionism, keeping the door open for trade and investment is a stabilizing factor, for the global economy. This effort is perhaps best exemplified through the Belt and Road Initiative. We see imports from BRI countries into China are growing twice as fast as Chinese exports to BRI countries. This provides great opportunities for companies from around the world to benefit from China’s economic development, it also provides Chinese consumers with more choices and better products. By keeping trade and investment open, and by keeping up opening trade and investment through domestic reforms, China can make this partnership a real win-win one.
Inclusiveness. Belt and Road Initiative is not only for the 1% of the companies, but for the 99% which are mostly SMEs, women entrepreneurs, young start-ups, who are the economic backbones of our countries. The Belt and Road Initiative must pay attention to the “hard” and also “soft” infrastructure needs of SMEs. Roads, railways and ports are key “hard” infrastructures to develop trade, but so are the “soft” infrastructure such as abilities to meet international standards, abilities to market internationally and abilities to access finance.
Sustainability. We must ensure that the Belt and Road initiative respects environmental sustainability principles, because we only have one planet. But also because there’re many opportunities in climate related technologies and industries.
Third, ITC will remain your partner
ITC will continue supporting SMEs access the Chinese market. At the first China International Import Expo last year, which was an initiative announced at the last “Belt and Road” forum, ITC supported 100 SMEs from developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia to attend and showcase their products and services.
Many of the companies managed to establish new business relationships and open a new door for their exports. A Rwandan company struck a big deal to supply a major Chinese supermarket-chain with its processed agro-products. Zambian firms concluded letters of intent to supply pork, rice, and cashews worth close to $90 million to counterparts in China. Five companies from Tajikistan agreed to supply cotton and textile products to Chinese buyers. Tourism operators in Myanmar and Nepal are poised to start catering to the Chinese tourists through partnerships developed at the Expo.
This year we’ll continue to support 100 companies to participate in the Import Expo and hope many of you will be there to meet our companies and help them to expand their business with China.
We’re also supporting Chinese companies to invest in African countries, in collaboration with CCPIT. Tomorrow we’ll proudly witness the signature of agreements between Chinese and Ethiopian companies on investment in pharmatheuticals, food processing and textiles. But more are coming in Mozambique, Kenya and Zambia.
Finally, moving forward, we’ll be supporting e-commerce and digital trade between Belt and Road partners and China.
We look forward to continue our good collaboration on the Belt and Road Initiative as a contribution towards the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Thank you and I wish this first CEO Conference a great success.