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First details emerge of new Belt and Road Expert Board

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2018-03-15 01:47
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Britain’s envoy to the Belt and Road Initiative has outlined how the United Kingdom plans to channel investment and expertise into the China-proposed major international economic development program.

Douglas Flint, who was appointed as the chancellor’s “city envoy” to the Belt and Road Initiative in December, said at a conference on Wednesday that he and City Minister John Glen, who oversees Britain’s financial services sector, will soon hold the inaugural meeting of a body set up by the treasury to bring together infrastructure financing and market expertise for Belt and Road projects.

“The city minister and I will soon convene and co-chair the first meeting of the treasury’s Belt and Road Expert Board, which will call upon representatives from UK, Chinese, and foreign headquartered institutions, and from within the city’s global talent pool,” Flint said at the China-Britain Business Council’s annual conference in London. “The board will be a forum designed to advocate to industry participants and public bodies in the UK, China, and third countries, the steps necessary to crowd in Belt and Road investment at scale.”

Flint, who served as chairman of HSBC bank from 2010 to 2017, said the board will seek to better quantify Belt and Road capital flows in the coming months, and look to understand the value being created by UK companies, while providing expert insight into projects already underway.

He said it will be supported by a dedicated policy unit, called the Infrastructure Financing Exchange.

“The team tasked with implementing the recommendations that come from the expert group will do so in line with national interests and priorities,” Flint said. “We will act as a portal for UK commercial engagement, throughout the Belt and Road projects.”

The treasury announced plans to create the Belt and Road Expert Board at the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue in December. Flint’s comments offered the first details of how the board will function.

He said recent meetings with Chinese companies and government officials proved to him how the Belt and Road Initiative had developed from “frankly an amorphous concept” into something that was “much more granular and specific”.

Several large banks, including Standard Chartered, Citigroup, and HSBC, are involved in projects linked to the Belt and Road Initiative.

Christopher Davies, chief executive of international at HSBC, said the UK’s financial services will play key roles in projects within countries in the area covered by the Belt and Road Initiative.

“One recent transaction worthy of talking about was the acquisition of a Norfolk wind farm,” Davies said. On March 7, China Resources Company finalized the purchase of a 30 percent stake in the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm, which was sold by Norwegian company Statkraft for 555 million pounds ($773.5 million).

“That was a substantial transaction, and the big themes of infrastructure globally, sustainability globally, from a Chinese point of view, are really exemplified in that transaction,” Davies said. “Our role in that is probably the type of role that’s available to European-based institutions. It’s about a specialized role, picking the spots. In this case, that was the advisory mandate.”

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