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New British parliament group aims to shine Westminster spotlight on BRI

LONDON, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Over 40 British politicians have shown interest in a parliamentary group recently set up to provide a platform for the country to engage and explore opportunities in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the group's first chairman has said.

Faisal Rashid, chair of the newly launched All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for BRI and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), told Xinhua in a recent interview that he believes BRI is an opportunity for post-Brexit Britain.

"I identified the BRI opportunity as massive, probably a game changer project," said Rashid whose business is in banking. "I thought this is just very very important for the UK to actually explore."

"My main aim is to have a very fair, open and honest evidence-based understanding of BRI to explore, to provide it to the business community and also politically look at the geopolitics it will actually bring forward," he added.

Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which are aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road on land and at sea.


The APPG, officially launched on Sept. 10, is tasked with helping British parliamentarians gain a greater understanding of both BRI and CPEC projects, and to provide a platform for British businesses to engage in the above-mentioned projects and explore any opportunities.

This will be achieved by organizing networking and evidence sessions, delegations, and by enabling high-level interaction between British businesses and Chinese and Pakistani governments, according to the chairman.

Rashid became a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) in the 2017 snap general election. He had the political experience as mayor of Warrington, the town he now represents in the House of Commons.

Although BRI is well known among leading British exporters, as well as major players in finance and legal services, Rashid believes that not every politician at Westminster is aware of the initiative.

"BRI is not very well promoted at the moment in our parliament," he said. "What we are doing is to try to provide education through the new group. And you can only do that when you form these platforms."

The chairman believes the new group will help MPs and members of the House of Lords to be more aware of it.


The idea of building a parliamentary group on BRI emerged after Rashid visited China last year and attended meetings about investments and opportunities.

Rashid said that from his point of view, the best thing about the initiative is connectivity across different parts of the world.

"Connectivity is the key for the whole trade, for social, for cultural cohesion," he said. "I think in that term, it is an absolutely brilliant idea."

But Rashid stressed that how that idea gets delivered, what happens through to how to achieve the idea is a question.

"And that question needs to be asked again and again and when you have more clarity, people will understand BRI," he said.

Describing BRI as "absolutely a great opportunity," Rashid said: "I see BRI as actually an opportunity for the UK."

He said the group will aim to deliver reports on how British businesses can get involved in BRI, and also how BRI will impact the political situations in parts of the world.

Rashid agreed that with Brexit on the horizon, the BRI initiative is even more important for Britain, saying: "Absolutely!"

"Britain has a significant amount of experience in legal and accounting service," he said. "We have massive experience in terms of energy generation as well. These companies I am sure must be exploring opportunities, but we also need to engage middle businesses and SMEs as well."


Between 40 and 50 politicians at Westminster have so far shown an early interest in the group's formation since it was first announced, but now that the group is up and running, more MPs are expected to take an interest in its work, said Rashid.

For Rashid it has meant meetings, dinners, round-table discussions and other events to enable him to spread the word about the new group.

Within weeks details of the new parliamentary group will be circulated to all 650 MPs and about 800 peers who sit in the House of Lords.

Bringing details of the group to every parliamentarian at Westminster is the ideal way to highlight and educate politicians about what BRI is all about, according to Rashid.

"The all-party group's objective is to bring open and honest information to UK businesses so they can make their own informed decisions," he said.

Rashid is also in the process of arranging a meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the British government department in charge of Belt and Road Initiative matters.


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