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U.S. Companies Should Be Involved in Belt and Road Projects, Trump Asia Adviser Says

By Chen Qin and Pan Che

(Beijing) — American companies should be involved in projects proposed by the Belt and Road Initiative, and a special working group has been set up to serve as the main coordinating body for these projects, Matthew Pottinger, the top Asia policy adviser in the Trump administration, told Caixin.

“You can really see there is a shared interest in expanding infrastructure connectivity through high-quality investment, financing,” said Pottinger, who is heading the U.S. delegation that attended the event, which is being called China's biggest diplomatic event of the year. “That’s why American companies should really be involved in a lot of projects we are hearing (about).”

The American Belt and Road Working Group, formed as a partnership between the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and U.S. companies, will serve as the “one node for collaboration in this area,” Pottinger, U.S. National Security Council senior director for East Asia, said during the event.

The two-day forum attended by state and government leaders from 29 nations participating in President Xi Jinping’s ambitious program to pump up China’s international trade muscle, wrapped up on Monday.

There are several leading U.S. companies in sectors ranging from engineering and infrastructure development to supplying construction materials. “We want to learn about specific projects and make sure there is open and transparent bidding so that American companies can be involved,” he said.

However, he said the United States and China will not sign any agreements related to the Belt and Road Initiative for the moment.

Chinese enterprises have invested more than $50 billion in a raft of infrastructure projects including building roads, rail lines, oil pipelines and airports across 60 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe under the Belt and Road initiative in the past three years.

During the summit, Xi said China will scale up financing for the Belt and Road projects by injecting another 100 billion yuan into the state-owned Silk Road Fund, which is tasked with investing in infrastructure development and resource extraction in member countries. These projects will also help revive China’s heavy industries including steal and cement that have been grappling with overcapacity problems for years.

The Trump administration’s decision to send a delegation to the Belt and Road summit coincided with the announcing of an important trade deal between the two countries. 

The deal, the first tangible result of trade talks that began last month, will see China allow U.S imports of beef by July 16. In return, China will be allowed to export cooked poultry to the U.S. market. Beijing has also agreed to issue guidelines to allow U.S.-owned card payment services “to begin the licensing process” in a sector that has been dominated by China UnionPay. China will further open up its financial series market to allow foreign-owned firms to provide credit rating services, according to a statement by the U.S. Ministry of Commerce last Thursday.

Contact reporter Pan Che (chepan@caixin.com)

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