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This week’s top Belt and Road news

Our BRI Briefing summarizes and analyzes key news related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) over the last week. 

Belt and Road Advisory

China selects Silk Road Super Ambassadors: China seems to be picking Belt and Road favorites. The Ambassadors of Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Malta and Bosnia and Herzegovina to China were conferred Silk Road Super Ambassador Awards in Beijing.

Chinese Envoy to EU slams EU policies on Chinese tech: Beijing’s envoy to the EU has launched a blistering attack on the “slander” and “discrimination” faced by Huawei and other Chinese companies in Europe, warning that efforts to exclude China from 5G mobile projects would be self-defeating.

Malaysia still in discussions over BRI rail project: Malaysia is in talks with China over the $20-billion East Coast rail project, the finance minister said on Wednesday, just days after another cabinet minister said Kuala Lumpur had decided to cancel the contract.

China accelerates development of foreign investment law: The Chinese government will rush a new foreign investment law through its rubber-stamp parliament in March, in a move that Beijing hopes will help smooth over trade talks.
 
Trump optimistic for a deal with China:China’s trade delegation to the US said the two sides had “clarified a timetable and roadmap” for the next round of trade negotiations. Trump said he was optimistic the world’s two largest economies could reach “the biggest deal ever made”. 

And all other Belt and Road news
 
Trade and Investment

Chinese investments into ASEAN fall:The value of newly announced Chinese deals in ASEAN – investment commitments and construction contracts worth more than US$100 million – dropped 49.7 percent in 2018 to US$19.2 billion, its lowest in four years.

Foxconn having a tough year: Around 50,000 contract workers have been let go since October at Foxconn’s most important iPhone factory at Zhengzhou, Henan. This seasonal decline is worse than usual, highlighting the impact of the slowdown in China’s economy on Apple.

NDRC turns on the fiscal taps: Since the start of December, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved 16 infrastructure projects, worth at least 1.1 trillion yuan (US$163.2 billion). This compares with $15bn in the same period last year.

BRI to push up global copper prices: A new report from the International Cooper Association shows that Belt and Road will result in the global demand for copper rising by 22% by 2027, versus 2017 levels.

Ford is the latest victim of the China slowdown: Sales at Ford’s main joint venture in China more than halved last year, the US company’s Chinese partner said, as international automakers feel the impact of declining sales in the world’s largest car market.  

AIIB launches local currency financing:The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank plans to launch local currency financing in some Asian countries later this year in a move to reduce cross-border investment risks caused by exchange-rate fluctuations.

Politics

China attacks US policy on Huawei:China has blasted the US government’s indictments against Huawei as “unfair and immoral” after the company was charged with 23 offenses including technology theft and violation of US sanctions in Iran. US Attorney general says offending went ‘all the way to the top’ 

China and Tunisia sign BRI agreement:China and Tunisia signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation under Belt and Road during a meeting between the Head of China's international development cooperation agency - Wang Xiaotao and Tunisian FM Hatem Ferjani.
 
New AIIB report on Bangladesh:Bangladesh's "Vision 2021" road map, planning to join the middle-income countries, requires 24 billion U.S. dollars worth of investments in infrastructure per year, according to an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) report.

The Maldives wants to cut debt with Beijing: The Maldives is to ask Beijing to reduce the debt it accrued during a recent Chinese investment boom, according to its new finance minister who claims that large-scale graft inflated the value of contracts under the previous government.

Projects

China-Laos tourism year opens: The "2019 China-Laos Year of Tourism" opened with an event in Vientiane, Laos on Friday. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the event, highlighting the two countries' relationship and calling for enhancing Belt and Road cooperation.
 
China extends a loan to Myanmar: China extended to Myanmar 7.378 million U.S. dollars' Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Special Fund for the second batch on Wednesday for use in the management of 19 projects under the fund.

Tonga seeks active BRI role: After signing a BRI MoU in November 2018, Tonga is playing an “active role” in Belt and Road according to the PM’s office. Tonga’s engagement in BRI focuses on roads, bridges, public buildings, and even sports facilities at a local school.

New Express Way announced in Cambodia: China will build a new $2bn Expressway linking Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in Cambodia. The expressway will stretch over 190 kilometers –It will have four lanes for the majority of its run and will take four years to complete.

Nepal pledges support to BRI: Nepal's participation in Belt and Road is in line with the country's national interests, Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said on Monday, seeking to assuage fears of a debt trap.  The two sides have signed agreements worth $2.4 billion since 2017. 

Ethiopia unveils new airport upgrades:Ethiopian Airlines on Sunday inaugurated a $363mn expansion project at the Bole International Airport in the capital Addis Ababa, which was funded by China Export-Import Bank and built by China Communications Construction Company.

Belt and Road relay: The British bank - Standard Chartered - today announced the launch of the Standard Chartered Belt & Road Relay, the first-ever global running event spanning the Belt and Road initiative. SC see opportunities from BRI and China’s financial opening.

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