by Nguon Sovan, Mao Pengfei
PHNOM PENH, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian and Chinese officials and academics said here on Thursday that the Belt and Road Initiative would greatly benefit all participating countries.
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.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Silk Road Fund, and the BRICS New Development Bank have been playing an active role to support the projects.
Prince Norodom Sirivudh, founder and chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the Belt and Road Initiative, which has become a catalyst of the regional and global order, is an emerging global force against re-emerging de-globalization sentiment taking place in different parts of the world.
"The Belt and Road Initiative is a new global force of peace, stability, prosperity and harmony, and Cambodia is committed to doing its best to realize the initiative," he said during a workshop on the outlook of cooperation between China and Cambodia under the Belt and Road, attended by some 100 officials and academics of the two countries.
"Every country regardless of size and power has a role to play in the Belt and Road Initiative and will benefit from it," he said.
Cambodia was one of the most supportive of the initiative because it saw vast economic opportunities to be generated by the Belt and Road, Sirivudh said, adding that for Cambodia, infrastructure development and connectivity was the core national interest in joining the initiative.
"We have high expectation that China will help Cambodia develop its infrastructure such as roads, rails, airports, seaports, hydroower plants, and special economic or industrial zones. Doing so would reduce logistics cost in the kingdom, enhance economic competitiveness and diversify sources of growth," he said.
He said Cambodia needed an estimated 600 million U.S. dollars per year to invest in infrastructure development.
Commenting on the future success of the Belt and Road Initiative, he said institutional capacity and governance would define the success of it, saying that without institutional capacity, the projects would be slow, and without good governance (transparency and accountability), the projects would fail.
Cambodian Transport Ministry Secretary of State Lim Sidenine said that in the connectivity infrastructure, the Belt and Road Initiative would offer a greater opportunity for Cambodia to develop expressways, railways, waterways, airports and logistics base.
"Cambodia and other countries in the regions and in the world will greatly benefit from this initiative," he said.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry Undersecretary of State Eat Sophea said Cambodia had supported the Belt and Road Initiative since the beginning because the Southeast Asian country believed that the initiative would significantly contribute to the development of infrastructure, agriculture, capacity building, industrial cluster, tourism and finance.
"Cambodia has not only expressed strong support for the Belt and Road, but also enthusiastically worked with the Chinese side to define cooperation areas and to set up relevant mechanism for promoting cooperation," she said. "We are very optimistic and firmly believe that the initiative will offer a great opportunity for Cambodia to realize its domestic development agendas and to contribute to shared prosperity in the regions and in the world."
Li An, economic and commercial counselor of the Chinese Embassy to Cambodia, said over the past four years, more than 100 countries and international organizations had actively supported and participated in the construction of the Belt and Road.
"The construction of the Belt and Road has gradually shifted from idea to action, from vision to reality," he said. "Cambodia, located in the center of the Indo-China Peninsula and the heart of Southeast Asia, is an important partner for China to carry out the Belt and Road construction and international productivity capacity cooperation."
Li said China and Cambodia are closely linked to each other along the Belt and Road, and the potential of future cooperation between the two countries is enormous in the areas of agriculture, tourism, airports, sea ports, expressways, hydropower stations, power transmission networks, information and communication, irrigation and other infrastructure development.
Meanwhile, he stressed that under the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation, the relations between China and Cambodia have been deepened in all fields, especially in economics, trade, investment and tourism.
"China is not only Cambodia's largest trading partner and largest source of foreign investment, but also Cambodia's largest source of tourists," he said.
The China-Cambodia trade volume reached 4.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, up 7 percent year-on-year, Li said, adding that on the investment front, China's total contracted investment in Cambodia accumulated to 11.8 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2016, accounting for 34 percent of Cambodia's total foreign investment.
Song Guoyou, director of Economic Diplomacy Studies Center of Fudan University, said the Belt and Road Initiative would importantly contribute to the development of connectivity infrastructure, trade, investment, human capital and tourism in Cambodia.
"There are a lot of fields that China and Cambodia can cooperate under the Belt and Road, for instance, cooperation in infrastructure, finance, human resources development, tourism, and people-to-people bond," he said. "The initiative will provide a great opportunity for the two countries to build a brighter future."