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China's Belt and Road Initiative to enormously benefit ASEAN: Cambodian officials, academics

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-10-31 15:48

PHNOM PENH - China's Belt and Road Initiative will greatly benefit the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially in infrastructure development, officials and academics said at a symposium.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, was proposed by China in 2013 with the aim of building a trade, investment, and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.

Since ASEAN needs huge capital to realize its Master Plan on Connectivity, the Belt and Road Initiative, supported by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, will provide great benefits to ASEAN, Lawmaker Suos Yara, vice-chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Commission, said at a Belt and Road symposium in Phnom Penh Monday.

A recent report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed that ASEAN would need infrastructure investment of $60 billion to $146 billion per annum up until 2025.

"China has been playing a very active role in building and upgrading physical infrastructure in the region through many initiatives, especially the Belt and Road Initiative," he said.

Mey Kalyan, senior advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council of Cambodia, said the initiative linked very well with the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity that would create vast opportunities for ASEAN and China to cooperate and serve as engines for future development and prosperity.

"Among the ASEAN member states, particularly Cambodia, construction and upgrading of infrastructure such as roads, ports and airports are a must," he said at the symposium that was attended by some 200 people, including Cambodian government officials, policy makers, academics and researchers.

"Improved infrastructure is essential for sustaining economic growth as it enhances logistical efficiency, reduces transaction costs and supports greater flow of trade and investment," he added.

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Xiong Bo said China regarded ASEAN as a key region in advancing the Belt and Road cooperation.

"The connectivity cooperation between China and ASEAN countries including Cambodia is highly compatible with ASEAN Connectivity," he said. "China-ASEAN Belt and Road cooperation is enjoying broad prospects and huge potential."

For Cambodia in particular, Xiong said China and Cambodia shared similar development strategies and have huge potential in cooperation fields such as infrastructure, connectivity, trade and investment.

Song Guoyou, director of Economic Diplomacy Studies Center of Fudan University, said the Belt and Road Initiative would promote regional economic integration and deeper globalization.

"It will also contribute to upholding regional peace and stability," he said.

Neak Chandarith, director of the Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said the Belt and Road Initiative would provide new sources of capital for all participating countries, especially ASEAN nations, for infrastructure development.

"For Cambodia, it stands to benefit enormously from the Belt and Road Initiative, mainly in economic development, transports infrastructure, tourism and people-to-people connectivity," he said.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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