Kotra urges Korea to join China’s ‘Belt and Road’

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Kotra urges Korea to join China’s ‘Belt and Road’

A local trade promotion group on Wednesday recommended Korea take on a bigger role in China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, an ambitious economic development plan to connect Africa, Asia and Europe with China at the center.

In a report on the Beijing-led initiative, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) said it was urgent for Korea to actively participate in the initiative’s ongoing infrastructure projects to take advantage of new business opportunities.

The report argued that Korean companies have mistakenly characterized the initiative proposed four years ago by Chinese President Xi Jinping as just another infrastructure expansion project for the country.

“However, the project has turned into China’s grand plan to reform international trade in the entire Eurasian region, according to updated reports on projects delivered through the Belt and Road forum held in May,” the Kotra report said.

During the forum, President Xi characterized the plan as “economic globalization that is open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all,” adding, “We have no intention to form a small group that will dismantle stability, but rather, we hope to create a big family of harmonious coexistence.”

China’s ambitious plan, inspired by the Silk Road, is anchored on a tripod of economic cooperation, trade expansion and regional development. This includes support for infrastructure projects like building bridges, rails, ports and energy facilities in over 60 countries.

One way for Korean companies to join the initiative is to take part in massive construction projects, the Kotra report said, by utilizing their competitive edge in construction technology.

The business group also sees potential in the Eurasian rail connecting China and Europe to improve logistics and opportunities for Korea to find new business possibilities in regional development projects. According to Kotra, Korea’s participation in the initiative could lead to more projects that focus on areas in Northeast Asia that connect China, North Korea and Russia.

Currently, only development projects around the Mekong River in Southeast Asia and in Central Asia have been mentioned as major projects under the initiative.

“Korean authorities need to take note that China has welcomed the active participation of South Korea in its initiative,” a Kotra spokesperson said.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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