15 JULY 2019
China’s trade with countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) reached $617.5 billion in the first half of 2019, up 9.7 percent year-on-year.
This increase was greater than the growth rate of the country’s total trade for the period which remained stable at 3.9 percent, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Exports and imports with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt went up by 11.5 percent, 34 percent and 11 percent respectively. China has signed cooperation documents on jointly building the Belt and Road with 18 Arabian countries, the Ministry of Commerce said on July 12. In 2018, bilateral trade volume between China and Arabian countries reached $244.3 billion, jumping 28 percent year-on-year.
The release of the statistics coincides with the news of the 100th approved member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Although not officially associated, the AIIB and the BRI are complementary. AIIB can finance infrastructure projects that will support increased trade.
The AIIB Board of Governors approved the applications of three African countries, Benin, Djibouti and Rwanda, on Saturday. AIIB members collectively account for 78 percent of the world’s population and 63 percent of global GDP. Germany, Britain, France and Italy defied U.S. requests to refrain from affiliation with the AIIB and became its founding members in 2016.
China’s Finance Minister Liu Kun said on Saturday that he hopes the AIIB will link its strategy with the development blueprints of its members, the BRI and the Connecting Europe and Asia Strategy of the European Union.
Since January 2016, the AIIB has provided $8.5 billion in loans to 45 projects in 18 member countries, many in renewable energy and green infrastructure. The investments have made significant contributions to connectivity and development in Asia.