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California represents at Belt and Road Forum

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-05-03 22:47
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While the US government avoided the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis not only attended but also spoke at the event.

Kounalakis said she came to Beijing to primarily speak about climate change, urge participants to prioritize the issue and "consider how the Belt and Road Initiative can drive positive action around this global threat".

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was proposed by China in 2013 to build a trade and infrastructure network to connect Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.

According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the "heads of state and government from 37 countries" were headed to the Beijing forum from April 25-27.

Kounalakis was representing California and its governor, Gavin Newsom. She discussed how California and China have constructed a partnership based on the shared principle of fighting climate change.

"Over the last decade, a strong partnership between California and China has emerged. It is built on a foundation of friendship and recognition that the earth's changing climate is an existential crisis that threatens us all," Kounalakis said.

Noting that California has its own carbon emissions trading program, Kounalakis praised China's plans to introduce a carbon trading initiative.

"As China works to develop its own national cap-and-trade program, California has been happy to assist. We formalized our cooperation through agreements signed with the National Development and Reform Commission and have been closely engaged with the regional pilot programs," she said.

Robert Manning of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council said California's unique economic status may have played a role in Kounalakis' attendance.

"California has the 10th largest economy in the world, with a strong global exporting presence, particularly in areas like agriculture and technology" so the state probably didn't want to miss out on the potential economic development prospects associated with BRI, he said.

Manning said the US may have missed an opportunity by not sending anyone.

"Infrastructure investment is not a zero-sum game. The US at the very least should be discussing with China the terms under which it would consider participation (in BRI)," he said.

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