China's "Belt and Road" initiative is expected to promote free trade agreementnegotiations with countries along the routes, improving the flow of exports and imports,according to a former vice-commerce minister.
"FTA negotiations with three countries from Asia and Europe that are involved in theinitiative are reaching the final stage, and we may see the results this year," said WeiJianguo.
Wei, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, agovernment think tank, spoke to China Daily in an exclusive interview.
He did not name the countries, but a Ministry of Commerce official confirmed earlier thatChina is working to set goals for free trade agreement negotiations along the "Belt andRoad" routes.
China has proposed the "Belt and Road" initiative, which refers to the Silk Road EconomicBelt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that are aimed at promoting economic andcultural exchanges with neighboring countries.
Experts say that free trade agreement negotiations with Sri Lanka and the six-nation GulfCooperation Council may achieve significant breakthroughs this year.
China is looking to form 20 free trade agreements, with 12 of them already signed andimplemented, according to the Commerce Ministry.
The central government says that countries along the land and sea routes in the "Belt andRoad" initiative account for 63 percent of the world's population and 29 percent of globalGDP. Trade between these countries and China reached more than $1 trillion last year, 26percent of China's total trade value.
John Zhu, an economist at HSBC, wrote in a report, "It is clear that boosting domestic andinternational trade flows is a high priority for the 'Belt and Road' initiative."
China's commitment to globalization remains strong, Zhu wrote, adding that thegovernment recognizes that many domestic regions have yet to fully leverage theiradvantages.
An action plan for the "Belt and Road" initiative specifies key roles for 18 provinces, butOu Xiaoli, an official with the State Council's working group on the initiative, confirmedthat no province will be excluded.
Wei also said that all provinces must ensure that local policies are in line with the nationalaction plan.
"It will be a good opportunity to boost competitive industries in different provinces, whichalso requires accelerating innovation to drive domestic industrial upgrading," Wei said.
According to official statements, local governments are working on development plans tomatch the overall road map for the initiative, with Guangdong province expected to be thefirst to announce its policies soon.