China says no ‘backroom deals’ in new Silk Road initiative

Above, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on March 5. Xi pledged $124 billion for the Belt and Road initiative at a summit last May. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2018
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China says no ‘backroom deals’ in new Silk Road initiative

BEIJING: China’s huge Belt and Road initiative to build a new Silk Road will respect global rules and be free of “backroom deals,” the foreign minister said on Thursday, defending a key policy of President Xi Jinping’s.
Unveiled in 2013, the Belt and Road project is aimed at connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Xi pledged $124 billion for the plan at a summit last May but it has faced suspicion in Western capitals that it is intended more to assert Chinese influence than Beijing’s professed desire to spread prosperity and that it will mostly benefit Chinese companies.
Visiting China in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said Belt and Road could not be “one-way.”
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Belt and Road was a “sunshine initiative” that was open and for all to benefit from.
“Everything will operate in the sunshine,” Wang said. “There is no domination by one party; everyone participates equally. There are no backroom deals; there is openness and transparency. There is no winner-takes-all; only seeking win-win mutual benefit.”
Wang pointed to what he said were several already very successful Belt and Road-linked projects, including building power plants in Pakistan and China’s operation of Greece’s largest port at Piraeus.
“China and France have joined hands to build a nuclear power station in Britain, becoming a model for cooperation in new high-tech projects for the Belt and Road,” he said, referring to the Hinkley Point scheme, which British Prime Minister Theresa May initially put on hold when she came to office in 2016.
Wang said China was committed to best international practice.
“Belt and Road is a global public good, and of course respects international rules. It is a global platform for cooperation, and naturally will run according to market rules,” he added.
“It won’t only benefit China. Even more, it will bring benefit to the world.”


EU leaders urged to ‘step up’ Brexit no-deal plans

Serious divergences remain on the backstop for (Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic). More work clearly needed, Michel Barnier tweeted. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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EU leaders urged to ‘step up’ Brexit no-deal plans

  • The June 28-29 summit in Brussels was long set as the deadline for Britain to provide its detailed offer on the fate of the Irish border

BRUSSELS: EU leaders will be asked to accelerate contingency plans in the event of failed Brexit negotiations with Britain, according to draft conclusions of a key European summit to be held next week.
The European Council, which groups the EU’s 28 member states, “renews its call upon member states and all stakeholders to step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes,” said a harshly worded draft document seen by AFP on Wednesday.
The spectre of no deal had subsided in December after Britain agreed in principle on several EU red lines, including the hot-button issue of Ireland, that London agreed to flesh out later.
The June 28-29 summit in Brussels was long set as the deadline for Britain to provide its detailed offer on the fate of the Irish border.
This was to include the controversial idea of a “backstop” that would keep a non-EU Northern Ireland inside the bloc’s customs union, barring a better solution.
But overwhelmed by political turmoil within her own Conservative Party, British Prime Minister Theresa May has so far failed to submit a compromise that satisfies the Europeans in time for the summit.
The Council, which is headed by EU President Donald Tusk, “expresses its concern that no substantial progress has yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland,” the draft said.
“Negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full.”
After a round of talks in Brussels, the EU had already on Tuesday underlined problems, noting the “serious divergences” on Ireland despite progress on several technical components of the Brexit negotiations.
“We are not there yet: serious divergences remain on the backstop for (Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic). More work clearly needed,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Twitter.
At the European summit, Barnier will present the state of play in Brexit negotiations to the assembled heads of state and government.
The EU hopes a final version of the withdrawal agreement, together with a political declaration on the future relationship between London and the EU, can be approved by October so that it can be ratified by the Brexit deadline of the end of March 2019.