KUALA LUMPUR: Asean and China must collaborate closely to ensure the success of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the region, said CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) chairman Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid.
He emphasised this view during the panel discussion in reference to a joint report by CARI and (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy (LSE IDEAS) entitled: “China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Southeast Asia”.
Dr. Munir proposed that a joint task force be established by Asean and China comprising official and private sector representatives to establish high-level guidelines on principles and practices in regional BRI projects.
The task force should also work to align the Master Plan for Asean Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 with the BRI so that regional infrastructure development takes place in an orderly manner without waste and costly white elephants.
“Asean-China economic relations are extremely strong and well-founded. The trade and, increasingly, investment numbers speak for themselves. At the 21st Asean-China Summit in Singapore next month, the Asean-China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 will be adopted which will further cement the close economic relations first formalised in Bali in 2003 when China became Asean’s first dialogue partner to have a strategic partnership,” Dr. Munir said.
He added that collaboration on BRI should be a part of the Asean-China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 to ensure its resounding success and to address kinks in BRI roll-out as have become evident.
“Objective, expert and professional project terms and execution will anticipate and remove problems that should not be allowed to puncture the visionary BRI - whose potential for connectivity are considered unmatched in human history,” he said.
He observed that the five guiding principles of MPAC 2025 - sustainable infrastructure, digital innovation, seamless logistics, regulatory excellence and people mobility could be brought to the highly imaginative BRI in the process of lifting the region to a new level of infrastructure development.
Dr. Munir identified Singapore’s memorandum of understanding (moU) with China signed in Beijing last April to promote greater collaboration between Singapore and Chinese companies in third-party markets under the BRI.
In this arrangement, a joint working group is to be formed to identify sectors and markets of mutual interest, and to organise business matching activities and forums to facilitate third-party market cooperation.
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said US-China trade war and strategic interests in the South China Sea must be a collective concern for Malaysia within the context of Asean.
He said the Belt and Road Initiative is conceptually sound and good, but nations involved must have their sovereignty protected at all times.