July 20, 2020 – There is great potential in post-pandemic cooperation under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), particularly in public health and e-commerce, a Fijian expert told Xinhua on Friday.
In an interview with Xinhua, Keshmeer Makun, lecturer at the University of the South Pacific (USP), said the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened, not restrained, the cooperation under the BRI framework, saying that China and the participating countries can extend their cooperation in the fields of public health and e-commerce.
BRI, a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was aimed at building a trade, investment, and infrastructure network that connects Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
Apart from economic benefits, the BRI has also provided opportunities in health and sanitation cooperation, said Makun.
One way in which health cooperation can be strengthened is by opening up health service trade, he noted, adding that trade in health services could help alleviate the impact of the pandemic by allowing scarce healthcare resources to move to where outbreaks emerge.
He mentioned that China has donated a lot of cash and medical supplies to countries including those in the Pacific region to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also shared with the region its experience and expertise in battling the virus.
Stressing the role of new economic and trade models in epidemic control, Makun said with the shift in behaviors brought by the pandemic, many more people will be willing to do business online rather than in person.
“We know China is being experienced and has expertise in this field. This is absolutely realistic for China to start mainstreaming this idea into the BRI,” he said.
Many small developing economies who have joined the BRI have comparative advantage to develop their ICT industry and would require initial expertise and infrastructure to takeoff, Makun said, adding “definitely there is a lot of scope for further cooperation on ICT related projects.”
The expert also said that to deepen the BRI cooperation in the Pacific region, China can step up its efforts in working together with the Silk road economic belt countries and the 21st century maritime silk road countries to fight climate change.
Makun appreciated China’s support on the Paris Agreement on climate change and mainstreaming the environment aspect of economic development into the BRI.
He said many countries would be looking forward to working with China and other countries to not only undertake green development and build climate resilience infrastructure, but also help them in adaptation and mitigation of adverse climatic situations.
China’s experience and expertise in developing renewable energy is directly related to what the Pacific Island countries could learn and take help from, Makun noted.
China is already assisting the Pacific Island countries in various projects like building sea wall and new grass technology that will prevent soil erosion and provide economic returns, he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic signals the need to keep trade flowing, Makun stressed, adding that that the BRI cooperation will make economic globalization become more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.
About Xinhua Silk Road
Xinhua Silk Road (en.imsilkroad.com) is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) portal. China’s silk road economic belt and the 21st century maritime silk road website, includes BRI Policy, BRI Trade, BRI Investment, Belt and Road weekly, Know Belt and Road, and the integrated information services for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).