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Former UK prime minister set to open Belt and Road event

By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-09-28 17:02

Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister, will open a conference in Edinburgh next week about China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The two-day event, on Oct 4 and 5, was organized by the University of Edinburgh's Confucius Institute.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known together as the Belt and Road Initiative, is an international development and infrastructure plan suggested by President Xi Jinping.

A Confucius Institute spokesperson said: "We are delighted that Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the UK, will address the conference, providing us with his unique geopolitical perspective on the continued development and influence of Asia and China on global trade."

The event will be Scotland's first major conference about the Belt and Road Initiative.

Organizers say 20 speakers from China, the UK and other European countries will assess the likely impact of the initiative on business, academia, and policymaking around the world. Potential stakeholders will be offered insight into how to engage in the initiative.

Laid out by Xi in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative seeks to meet demand for infrastructure development and increase trade and cultural links between nations and economies in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania. The initiative encompasses 65 countries and economies and 60 percent of the world's population.

The UK has been a strong advocate of the plan since its inception. It joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015, and Britain became part of the Belt and Road transport network earlier this year with the establishment of a freight train link between London and Yiwu, Zhejiang province, on China's East Coast.

The spokesperson said: "Scotland's own strengths in innovative technologies and low-carbon solutions makes it an ideal place to consider how sustainable strategies and solutions can be developed for projects along the Belt and Road and help companies here understand how to grasp the opportunities it presents."

Brown, who was prime minister from 2007 to 2010, is the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. His charitable work focuses on delivering education and internet access to underserved regions of the world.

Speaking at last year's Sino-European Entrepreneurs Summit, Brown said the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to lift many people out of poverty. He explained that the infrastructure opportunities afforded by the initiative are made attractive by the commitment of financial institutions, including the AIIB and the Silk Road Fund.

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