Douglas Flint, who the UK finance ministry appointed Financial and Professional Services Envoy to the Belt and Road Initiative in December, outlined his vision for UK involvement in the initiative at an event hosted by Standard Chartered Bank and media organization Thomson Reuters.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a major international development and infrastructure plan conceived by President Xi Jinping in 2013. It will involve upwards of $1 trillion of investment into 60 countries, predominantly in Asia and Europe.
Flint said the scale of the development initiative is so vast that it cannot be achieved by any one nation.
“The evolution of what BRI means has been rapid and dramatic,” Flint said. “What started somewhat narrowly as trade route definition and reinforcement has migrated to globalization 2.0, focused on building the infrastructure that allows economies to grow and connect to the rest of the world under an overriding vision of shared prosperity - a vision committed to enhancing cross-border trade and investment flows.”
The UK finance ministry has formed the BRI Expert Board, chaired by Flint, and it will generate Belt and Road policy recommendations and help crowd-in private sector capital and expertise at scale.
Flint said the UK is in the process of establishing an Infrastructure Financing Exchange to which companies can express their interest in being involved in Belt and Road and to coordinate project opportunities.
The exchange will work to agree a consistent definition of what constitutes a Belt and Road project. This will involve establishing minimum criteria for project viability, rule of law, governance, dispute resolution, risk management and insurance.
At the event, titled Unlocking the Belt and Road Investment Opportunity, the UK Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion Baroness Fairhead encouraged UK enterprises to get involved in Belt and Road projects.
“The world economy is pivoting towards China – fast,” Fairhead said. “It adds the equivalent of Norway to its GDP every seven months. That is an opportunity we must seize. That's certainly the government's view, and it has been for a long time.”
Fairhead said the expert board has commissioned studies to map Belt and Road financial flows, evaluate investment opportunities, and identify practical steps to encourage private sector investment.
The BRI Expert Board will identify several pilot projects that the UK will collaborate on in third countries, which will be announced later this year, according to Fairhead.
Fairhead said this could include a list of projects in Kazakhstan, where the UK Department for International Trade is planning a trilateral UK-China-Kazakhstan event in Astana in Autumn. She revealed that the UK is collaborating on Thailand's $45 billion Eastern Economic Corridor. She said her department is currently engaging with UK companies and the Thai government to identify opportunities and scope projects.