Opening remarks by ADB Vice-President Wencai Zhang at the CAREC High-Level Session on New Opportunities for Regional Cooperation: The Potential of CAREC–BRI Collaboration at the 51st ADB Annual Meeting on 3 May 2018 in Manila, Philippines.
Honorable Governors, Ministers, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, it is my privilege to welcome you to this CAREC High-Level Session on New Opportunities for Regional Cooperation: The Potential of CAREC–BRI Collaboration.
ADB has a mandate by its Charter to promote regional cooperation and integration in the Asia and Pacific region. We consider regional cooperation as a powerful mechanism to unlock the region’s vast economic potential and promote sustained growth and improvement in the quality of lives of people.
Over the years, ADB has supported a series of subregional economic cooperation programs to bring neighboring countries together to design and implement projects to enhance connectivity, promote trade, and create new business and employment opportunities. These include the Greater Mekong Subregion Program, the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Program, and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program.
The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program, CAREC in short, has been actively promoting regional cooperation since its inception in 2001. CAREC has supported about $31.5 billion in concrete investments covering 185 projects, that have helped establish multimodal transportation networks; increased energy trade and security; broken down trade barriers; facilitated free movement of people and freight; and laid the groundwork for development of economic corridors.
A new era of the CAREC Program
A major milestone was achieved in October 2017, when the CAREC 2030 strategy was endorsed at the 16th CAREC Ministerial Conference. CAREC 2030 seeks to expand the horizons of economic cooperation in the region by connecting people, policies and projects for shared and sustainable development. Besides deepening operations in the earlier four areas of focus of CAREC Program, i.e., trade policy, trade facilitation, energy, and transport, CAREC expands its scope to include new areas of cooperation such as economic and financial stability, agriculture and water, tourism development, cross-border education, and health services.
In supporting regional cooperation in these areas, CAREC strives to evolve close collaboration and build synergy with development partners and other regional cooperation mechanisms.
In this regard, CAREC seeks to work with and cooperate closely with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to collectively promote economic growth, prosperity and elimination of poverty in the region. At the last CAREC Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe in October 2017, Ministers signed a “Dushanbe Declaration” that includes the articulation of the resolve to building stronger synergy and linkages between CAREC and BRI going forward.
CAREC and the BRI
Ladies and gentlemen,
The CAREC countries, situated as a land bridge connecting East Asia and Europe, lie at the heart of Silk Road Economic Belt, and therefore stand to tremendously benefit from a synergistic approach between CAREC and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). All CAREC countries are covered under the BRI.
The BRI and CAREC uphold common goals of improving connectivity, promoting unimpeded trade, creating a sound investment climate, and strengthening financial cooperation between countries. The six transport corridors initiated by CAREC traverse the BRI space, providing further impetus for close coordination to jointly build resilient and sustainable regional infrastructure, strengthen trade links, and create jobs and greater economic opportunities for all our countries.
CAREC’s enhanced mandate to create an open and inclusive regional cooperation platform reinforces what the BRI pursues, that is “peace and cooperation, open and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.” Both CAREC and the BRI place people at the center of regional cooperation by promoting people-to-people exchanges and experience sharing among countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
CAREC’s collaboration with BRI presents an excellent opportunity to further galvanize regional economic cooperation and strengthen partnerships among countries, development institutions and other regional cooperation frameworks.
During the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, ADB together with the other five multilateral development banks signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Finance, aimed at exploring potential avenues for collaboration with the BRI initiative.1 The MOU mandates cooperation with BRI in the context of each institution’s country partnership strategies, and regional and subregional cooperation programs. The focus of this cooperation agreement on infrastructure and connectivity projects and efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change are at the center of CAREC’s ongoing and planned activities.
Today, we would like to reiterate our support to working with our member countries to build effective linkages between CAREC and BRI going forward. We stand ready to contribute to this endeavor, including through working jointly on large-scale regional infrastructure investments, and conducting supportive policy dialogue on key economic and social development issues.
In conclusion, let me say that regional cooperation is critical to securing our region’s economic future. Addressing the large development needs of the region calls for collective action by countries, private sector, multilateral and bilateral development institutions, and regional and international cooperation platforms such as CAREC and the BRI, among others.
So where do go from here and what are the next steps? I would suggest that our interaction today on CAREC–BRI collaboration should not be a one-off event. Instead, there needs to be a regular and ongoing dialogue to undertake strategic initiatives to realize the true potential of this collaboration.
We need to find ways of actualizing collaboration on concrete projects on the ground—as I have indicated already. We will have to work closely with member countries to identify priority regional projects, develop project pipelines, prepare high quality projects, match projects to sources of public and private sector finance, and ensure the timely and successful implementation of projects.
We will also have to place a premium on capacity development to effectively deliver projects. In addition, we will need to support value-adding knowledge and analytical work to inform operational priorities. CAREC Institute can play a useful role in this regard.
Today’s session marks a milestone in our resolve to strengthen collaboration between CAREC and BRI to realize these cherished objectives. I strongly believe that all of us can work together to unleash the potential of regional cooperation and help our countries to proceed on an accelerated and inclusive path toward economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development.
1 Multilateral organizations include: Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), New Development Bank (NDB), and World Bank.