Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday $64 billion in deals were signed at a summit on his Belt and Road Initiative and more nations would join the global infrastructure programme as he sought to ease concerns over the colossal project.
Xi and 37 world leaders wrapped up a three-day forum in Beijing with pledges to ensure that projects in his new Silk Road are financially sustainable and green following concerns about debt and environmental damage.
“We are committed to supporting to open, clean and green development and rejecting protectionism,” Xi told journalists at the end of the forum, without taking questions.
His signature foreign policy aims to reinvent the ancient Silk Road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects -- with hundreds of billions of dollars in financing from Chinese banks.
But critics say BRI is a plan to boost Beijing's global influence, riddled with opaque deals favouring Chinese companies and saddling nations with debt and environmental damage.
The US, India and some European nations have looked at the project with suspicion. Washington did not send any representatives to the meeting.
“This year's forum sends a clear message: more and more friends and partners will join in the Belt and Road co-operation,” Xi said.
Xi said enterprises will be the main driver in all Belt and Road projects and market principles will apply, with governments providing a supporting role.
“This will make the projects more sustainable and create a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign investors,” Xi said.
Xi said that business leaders meeting at a side event signed some $64 billion worth of deals during the forum, without providing details.
Leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America meeting at the picturesque Yanqi Lake outside Beijing agreed in a joint communique that enterprises will act as main players in Belt and Road projects.
The gathering included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose nation became the first G7 member to join Belt and Road, and Pakistan’s Imran Khan.
The massive projects, financed mainly through Chinese bank loans and investments, have raised concerns that poorer countries are being saddled with debt.