The economic development strategy and framework, proposed by China under president Xi Jinping, has gotten countries in the region gearing up to take advantage of the widening trades from China, both inland and at sea, with a particular push to infrastructural developments.
David Mann, chief economist Asia at Standard Chartered Bank, said the OBOR initiative has reinforced and expanded the existing trades between China and Asean in particular, be it on the ‘belt’ side leading to Europe or on the maritime lane.
“China has been finding destinations to invest in, and the OBOR initiative is expected to gain even more traction... give it another year or two,” Mann told delegates at the Marine Money conference held in Singapore on Tuesday.
Over at Hong Kong and Singapore, the two key maritime cities have established their respective OBOR offices to facilitate the expansion of Chinese trade.
“We have (OBOR) office in Singapore under the ministry of trade and industry, looking at how we can bring Chinese investment into Southeast Asia,” said Chay Yiowmin, partner, corporate finance, BDO Advisory.
“Singapore is considered a financial centre of this region, and a lot of money from China are parked here for investment to build up infrastructure in neighbouring countries, for example, Indonesia,” Chay said. He added that funds are also channeled into developing second-tier Asian ports for them to cater to increasing shipments of commodities to energy-starved China.
Hong Kong also has an OBOR office to give suggestions and recommendations on strategic and trade growth to the Hong Kong chief executive, according to Benjamin Wong, head of transport and industrial, InvestHK.
“We are very upbeat on the OBOR initiative. On the finance side, the monetary authority has established the infrastructure financing office as a platform for stakeholders,” Wong said, adding that Hong Kong’s strengths in finance, logistics and trade would play a key role in promoting the OBOR inititative.
In the much longer term say over the next 10-20 years, according to Standard Chartered’s Mann, the OBOR may see linkages to South Asia, primarily to India, to aid infrastructural developments in that region and to promote the establishment of new industries.