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    Belt and Road initiative heralds new era in cooperation for Australia and China: Australian experts

    Updated: 04 06 , 2017 14:30
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    SYDNEY, March 24 -- The Belt and Road Initiative has been lauded by Australian experts as being the catalyst for a new era in economic and trade cooperation between Australia and China.

    In an interview on Friday, former Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb sat down with Xinhua on the sidelines of an economic forum attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Sydney, and said the Belt and Road Initiative will play a pivotal role in both China's and Australia's economic success well into the future.

    "Without a doubt. There is growing contact as people get to understand what the Belt and Road Initiative is," Robb said. "It is the potential for Australia."

    Robb shared his hope that both Australia and China will be able to work side by side in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative, utilising their "complementary" abilities.

    "A lot of the projects that Australia can bring, especially expertise in the social infrastructure; hospitals, schools, aged care facilities, all of these sorts of things. And of course we have construction capabilities which will complement China's," Robb said.

    So, I think there are opportunities for huge partnerships throughout the region, Robb said.

    Robb stressed that there has been real progress in Australia recently concerning the Belt and Road Initiative, and as businesses in Australia see the further elements of the strategy being actioned, more will sign up to take part.

    "Once that impression takes hold there will be a lot of interest in the Belt and Road Initiative from Australia." Robb said.

    The former trade minister is not the only voice in the chorus of those who believe the economic future lies with both countries driving the initiative.

    The NSW President of the Australia China Business Council, Craig Emerson, who also served as the federal trade minister on the opposite side of politics in Australia from 2010 to 2013, agreed with Robb, and told Xinhua, the initiative is, in a way, turning back the clock on trade.

    "China is physically, as well as metaphysically, reaching out to other parts of the world, re-establishing trade routes and maritime routes, that is the next stage of China's opening', where it is going back to where it was centuries ago, but to no doubt enable trade into the future," Emerson said.

    The chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott told Xinhua on Thursday she believed that not only will the Belt and Road Initiative be beneficial to both countries through its operation, but also as part of a broader trade context.

    "It really does cement trade between the two countries, trade across the globe, that openness that we are seeking, and building on the huge success of the two markets working together," Westacott said.

    Westacott explained that in order for the initiative to be completely successful in providing mutually beneficial outcomes for both sides, it will be important to further educate Australian businesses of the benefits of participating in the ambitious strategic project.

    "One of the things we do need to do is explain to businesses what the initiative is, how it is going to roll out, and what are the investment opportunities," Westacott said.

    "People will invest in good ideas, and things that have a return, and people will see the bigger strategic issues."

    Peter Drysdale, head of the East Asia Bureau of Economic Research, wrote in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday that the Belt and Road Initiative is a profound opportunity for Australia to not only "strengthen open economic arrangements" with China, but also, play a role in developing the infrastructure that supports the initiative.

    "The two countries can work to strengthen investment arrangements; improve air transport connectivity; jointly study opportunities for cooperation on infrastructure; and seek to promote economic cooperation and regional infrastructure investment through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other regional financial institutions," Drysdale said.

    The opportunities to be a part of the infrastructure investment are immense according to Emerson, with a "very large amount of infrastructure investment" being needed to ensure the initiative's success.

    "I'm absolutely certain that Australian construction companies, financiers, and Australian superannuation funds will be very interested in that," Emerson said.

    While the Belt and Road Initiative will lead China and Australia into a new era of trade cooperation, both countries will also benefit on a more global scale, as world-renowned economist, Jim O'Neill, told Xinhua earlier this month. The Belt and Road Initiative will "completely transform" the economic outlook for all the countries involved, leading to "exciting" opportunities for China and Australia.

    Robb agreed, and explained that the initiative's potential positive impact on a global scale is limitless, as countries, left to their own devices, are unable to achieve the same growth capability.

    "If they get help with important infrastructure which aids trade, and investment, and growth; you will see a great acceleration across all of those countries they will create markets themselves, they will invest in other countries," Robb said.

    "It could be absolutely transformative for a very large part of the world; and that is good for peace, and stability, in the world as a whole."

    By Will Koulouris

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