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Interview: China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative provides opportunities for South Pacific island nations: Samoan PM

by Zhang Yongxing

SUVA, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is opening a vast market and providing opportunities of development for the world, particular for the South Pacific region's small island nations including Samoa, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa has said.

"The Belt and Road Initiative is opening a vast market and bringing lots of opportunities for the world, particular for the small countries like Samoa in the South Pacific region in this difficult times and challenges posed by climate change," Tuilaepa said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

In his family study in Apia, capital of Samoa, Tuilaepa, who just wrapped up a China trip for the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, told Xinhua that the initiative has a positive effect on promoting trade, tourism and culture, and that is why his country inked with China a memorandum of understanding (MoU) of cooperation for the initiative, aiming to strengthen the win-win cooperation with China and build a closer partnership between the two countries.

"I think that Samoa is the first of the South Pacific island nations to sign the initiative. For me, when we say something benefiting our country, we are always quick to make a decision, " he said proudly. "We supports the Belt and Road Initiative, and is willing to expand cooperation with China in the fields such as trade, investment and tourism within the framework of the initiative."

From his point of view, Samoa has obviously benefitted from the initiative and seen a vast potential of cooperation with China within the framework of the initiative.

Over the past years, on the basis of full respect for the will of the Samoan government and people for the social and economic development, China has provided assistance to Samoa in various fields and that all the assistance has been welcomed and has been highly appreciated by Samoa.

Samoa and China have established a close relationship of mutual trust and friendship based on the one-China principle since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries 43 years ago, he said, adding that all China's assistance to the island nation is "transparent, no any secret" and the assistance has really helped grow the country's economy.

Tuilaepa slams the so-called China debt trap, saying that "we are fortunate to have grants from China. I think all the allegation (of the China debt trap) is based completely on misunderstanding of the issues involved. "

Meanwhile, the Samoan prime minister voiced his support to multilateral trade cooperation, saying that free trade has been accepted by the countries across the world.

"This is a world of free competition and the smooth flow of trade is very important for all of us, including Samoa, " he said. "Now it seems that every country in the world wants to grow its economy. I want to ensure our Samoans to enjoy the benefits of free trade. In doing so, as a very small country, we need friends like China, we need partners and we need open markets."

"In Tianjin's World Economic Forum, what we talked about is open trade, free movement of goods, free movement of labour and free movement of technology. If you open up trade, world trade will be cheaper and all of us will benefit from it," he said.

Regarding the Asian market and economy as now being "on the top of the world and the leaders of the international trade," he said that the future of the world lies with China and the Asia Pacific, and the biggest and most important market is China.

"If we look at the Pacific's future, we can see the Pacific will be leaning more and more toward China. China, along with the rest of Asia, including India, South Korea and Japan, is the center of the world gravity, the center of business in the world 's future. I can see that as a country with a population of 1.3 billion, China's economy is going to grow, grow and grow in the future because China has the most population and the vast market. And the Chinese people will produce goods of the best quality at the lowest possible price, so China can serve any market in the world," he said.

As for the prospect of the relations between China and the South Pacific island nations, including Samoa, he said that mutual respect and common development is good and there is a great potential for such relationship to grow.

"I am proud to say that Samoa is among the first South Pacific island nations to establish diplomatic ties with China. And I think that mutual respect and common development is a perfect policy. For the small countries like Samoa, this is good as we should respect each other and seek common development of our economies," he added.


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