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Address by Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu at the Opening of the "One Belt One Road" Forum
2015/08/16

(14 August, 09:30, Australian National University)

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me a great pleasure to attend the forum today.

The event is held very timely. Here in Canberra yesterday, Chairman Xu Shaoshi of China's National Development and Reform Commission, Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Treasurer Hockey jointly held the second round of Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED). The theme of the dialogue, among others, is how to jointly build the "One Belt, One Road". I can tell you that they had a very good discussion and reached the following important consensus.

The Australian government will hold the Northern Australia Investment Forum in Darwin this November and is very keen to invite Chinese companies to participate in the forum and explore business opportunities on the development of infrastructure in north Australia. Chairman Xu responded positively.

Australia will also host an Australia Week Roundtable on Investment in China next year. The roundtable will encourage investment cooperation between China and Australia.

As the Australian government plans to renew its infrastructure facilities, it welcomes Chinese companies to invest in the development of its ports, oil and gas pipelines and railways linking its cities.

Both sides agreed to work closely to accommodate China's Maritime Silk Road and Australia's Strategy of Developing the North. They decided to set up working groups to deal with the above-mentioned matters.

The two sides would also share their respective strengths in a third market.

The SED was remarkably productive and fruitful. You may also have noticed that the recently released Business Envoy by DFAT sees significant opportunities from the "One Belt, One Road" for Australian businesses.

The short video shown just now has given us a snapshot of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. But I believe there are still many people asking what it is and how to build it? I am happy to share with you some of my observations.

The concept of "One Belt, One Road" was first outlined by H.E. President Xi Jinping. It refers to the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "21 Century Maritime Silk Road". The initiative aims to connect China and participating countries' development strategies, facilitate trade and investment, boost growth and employment, and bring people and countries in the region closer.

Through the initiative, China could take advantage of its manufacturing strength to provide goods, technology and machinery to other countries. It will also promote China's overseas investment, result in greater connectivity in the region, and bring more opportunities for cooperation.

It is two-way traffic. Development of the "One Belt, One Road" will be open and inclusive, not exclusive. It will be a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo for China itself. Countries are encouraged to connect their development strategies and build projects together for mutual benefits.

Since its inception in 2013, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative has made significant progress. The policy paper-Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21 Century Maritime Silk Road was launched. More and more countries along the routes have shown increasing interest in taking part. Many have signed cooperation documents with China in jointly building the belt and road and a number of projects are well underway. In addition, the official launch of the Silk Road Fund and Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank provides a strong financing guarantee to the project.

I hope my introduction will give you a rough picture of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. Then the next crucial question is how to build it? In particular, how China and Australia could jointly build the "21 Century Maritime Silk Road".

Australia is highly relevant to the initiative. The Maritime Silk Road will connect China's eastern coastal cities, across the South China Sea into the South Pacific. Australia is a major country at the end of this route. China welcomed Australia's participation in the Maritime Silk Road.

China remains Australia's largest trading partner, largest export market, largest source of import, and largest source of trade surplus. Last year, China also became Australia largest source of foreign investment. Under the initiative, we could build on our existing cooperation and further expand it in energy, resources, agriculture, services, infrastructure and finance. We could step up cooperation in the upstream, middle and downstream chain, explore cooperation in technology, machinery, financing and marketing.

China and Australia signed a bilateral FTA in June. ChAFTA will provide unprecedented opportunities to the business communities in both countries and become a pillar in the building of the Maritime Silk Road. After its coming into effect, 96.8% of the tax items of Australian goods exports to China will ultimately be tariff free. Tariffs for 95% of them will be abolished within 5 years. All Chinese goods exports to Australia will ultimately be tariff free and 91.6% of them will enjoy zero tariff from day one of the agreement. There will be a surge for many Australian exports such as beef, wool, wine, diary products, and the same is true for Chinese products such as garment, electronics and chemicals. Some analysis estimates that bilateral trade will grow by more than $US 16 billion after the trade pact comes into effect, roughly 10 per cent of the two-way trade volume in 2013.

But the "One Belt, One Road" initiative is not limited to trade and investment. Tourism and education are also an important part. By May, 2015, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Australia has exceeded 1million, increasing by 17% year on year. And 240,000 Chinese students are now studying in Australia. We are making efforts to implement the New Colombo Plan and strengthen the existing cultural and people-to-people linkages. People-to-people connections will be favorable for the development of the Maritime Silk Road.

These are just some of the highlights in my mind. I do not want to draw some conclusion here. It is for you to discuss and explore the significance of the initiative as well as ways and means to build it. That is why the Forum is relevant and important. I am sure you will come up with new and valuable ideas and recommendations.

To conclude, I have every confidence that with joint efforts of both sides, we will turn the Maritime Silk Road in to a Golden Ribbon of common prosperity for China, Australia and countries in the region.

Thank you.

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