UN to advance Belt and Road Initiative in Asia-Pacific through regional cooperation
“The Belt and Road Initiative represents a long-term transcontinental plan for enhanced global connectivity and integration. It has the potential to further position the Asia-Pacific region as an epicentre of growth, trade, innovation and low carbon development,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar.
“ESCAP can facilitate the regional cooperation and coordination needed to help take the Belt and Road Initiative forward. Our framework agreements in the fields of transport, ICT and trade provide solid foundations on which to build. These agreements have the potential to be amended and extended to help deliver investment and sustain the Belt and Road Initiative’s momentum.”
Dr. Akhtar highlighted that the Belt and Road Initiative is an integral part of Asia-Pacific’s regional economic cooperation and integration programme and that both endeavors offer potential to reinforce each other, building on negotiated transboundary infrastructure networks. “The Belt and Road Initiative can benefit from ESCAP's policy and normative frameworks and standards based on multilateral principles, and utilize the Asian Highway, the ICT Superhighway and other transboundary infrastructure,” she added.
Under its partnership with China to assist the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, ESCAP has analyzed the macroeconomic, environmental and social impact of the initiative’s six priority economic corridors. The research shows that it will generate substantial benefits for China and partner countries, with annual welfare gains of $86 to $372 billion. However, the costs and benefits vary across corridors depending on geography, development levels, productive capacities and traffic flows.
ESCAP recommends that ‘hard’ infrastructure must also be accompanied by ‘soft’ infrastructure, such as agreements, technical standards and operational rules, in order to create seamless economic corridors. A 30 per cent decline in cross-border transaction costs and import tariffs would generate 1.8 per cent GDP growth for China and from 5.3 to 16.9 per cent growth for the countries linked by the Belt and Road Initiative.
ESCAP’s research shows that aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can facilitate delivery of transboundary Sustainable Development Goals and lay the foundations for equitable, inclusive and low carbon development. The research also shows that an integrated cross-sectoral approach the infrastructure development can lead to strong efficiency gains and costs savings through use of shared rights of way, and other complementarities.