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UN promotes role of `new silk road'
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-27 02:15

The United Nations will continue to support economic co-operation among regions along the new Eurasian Continental Bridge, which runs across China from east to west.

Khalid Malik, UN Resident Co-ordinator in China suggested putting the development of the rail link on the agenda of high level government dialogue mechanisms such as the Asia-Europe Conference and the Shanghai Co-operation Organization.

"If this comes true, it will enable the continental bridge to play its due role in enhancing co-operation between Asia and Europe, and promoting world peace and development," Malik told China Daily in an exclusive interview before opening a two-day international forum on promoting economic ties among regions along the route, also named the "New Silk Road (NSR)."

He said countries along the NSR should learn from advanced countries on their experiences in road network construction, information service, management approach and policy regulations to speed up capacity building.

"And we can achieve new miracle by opening tourism and realize free movement of visitors, goods and services," said Malik.

He said that the UNDP and the Chinese Government recently initiated a new national project to help local authorities along the Chinese section of the route better participate in intra and inter-regional trade and economic co-operation, as well as sustainable tourism.

The UNDP engages in tourism development because tourism has become the engine of economic growth in the world today. And it can bring in many other things such as trade, investment, labour, technology and culture.

"In the vast area of Central Asia, including western China, rich tourism resources remain to be tapped," said Malik.

During the past few years, the UNDP has helped countries along the route establish national co-ordination mechanisms and identified transport, transit, customs, trade and investment problems.

"The momentum of co-operation has been increasing through the years as evidenced by series of events held in China, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which have led to results in these sectors and benefits to the participating countries," said Malik.

The trading turnover between China and Central Asian countries increased to US$4 billion in 2003, eight times higher than the 1992 figure. China's investment in the region has now exceeded US$1 billion.

The new Eurasian continental bridge, the cheapest and fastest land rail route from Asia to Europe, starts in the coastal city of Lianyungang and ends at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The 10,900 kilometres continental bridge, which was launched on December 1, 1992, has benefitted China's coastal regions. Lianyungang port, for example, now handles over 90 per cent of international rail cargo from China's coastal ports.

Chinese authorities has attached great importance to the construction and use of one of the most important transport arteries between Asia and Europe.

In a congratulatory letter to the forum, attended by delegates from 10 Asian and European countries, Vice-Premier Wu Yi said: "To accelerate the development and co-ordination among regions along the Road will further promote the economic and technical co-operation and cultural exchanges among Eurasian countries."

Wei Jianguo, vice-minister of commerce, said the development of the section of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge in China has already be listed as priority in the country's western development strategy at the beginning of this year.

He said trade between Asia and Europe has steadily increased. But transporting goods by sea faces the challenges of terrorism. The "New Silk Road" has thus become an optional transport link, contributing to safe trade between Asia and Europe.

"Therefore, the route is of strategic importance to Asian and European countries and is of common interest to countries in the NSR region in terms of security and economic interests," said Wei.

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