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US can benefit from Belt and Road initiative: opinion

Probably it might be hard for some American politicians to say yes to joining the Belt and Road initiative put forward by China. But what about a Belt and Road version 2.0?

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Melania Trump, Peng Liyuan President Donald Trump talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with their wives, first lady Melania Trump and Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan as they pose for photographers before dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. Photo:AP/Alex Brandon

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said recently that 28 heads of state have confirmed to attend a forum hosted by China in May to discuss the Belt and Road initiative.
The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which is to be held in Beijing on May 14 and 15, came over three years after Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested that China and Central Asia cooperate to build a Silk Road Economic Belt, and China and ASEAN countries build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013.
The Belt and Road initiative has a route which runs through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asian economies at the one end and developed European economies at the other.
While the Belt and Road initiative will benefit those countries both economically and socially, the US, which is not reached by the route, could also benefit from the initiative, which many used to treat as a rival to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a “pivot” to Asia strategy suggested by former US president Barack Obama.
Although the US President Donald Trump has not revealed a clear position on the Belt and Road initiative so far, there are some reasons to believe that it could be a win-win initiative for both China and the US.
One of the biggest benefits that the Belt and Road initiative could bring to the US is cooperation in third countries which can help to support President Trump’s vision to recover manufacturing industry, which is crucial to help increase the country’s employment rate and economic growth.  
An important reason for Trump’s victory in states like Ohio and Michigan during the presidential campaign was that those states largely depend on the traditional manufacturing industry, which have seen an increase in the unemployment rate in recent years, and local voters hope that Trump would be able to figure out a way to re-prosper the manufacturing industry in these regions so as to create enough jobs for locals. This has made re-energizing manufacturing industry a main task for President Trump in the rest of his four-year term.
The US, which has developed a long-time relationship with many countries alongside the Belt and Road, has its own advantages in expanding markets in those regions: they understand the history and culture of those countries, have good connections, and extensive experience in management and operation. Developing cooperation in third countries in this region can help to reduce risks and find new economic growth points. Combining US’ high-technology and innovation capability with China’s advantages in producing low cost products and mid-to-high end manufacturing can also help to promote economic development of the third countries.
In the meantime, President Trump also plans to spend $1 trillion to upgrade the US infrastructure, but besides complicated tax issues and political roadblocks, the plan also faces the challenges of funding and implementation. It might be difficult for the US to complete such a huge infrastructure project alone with its current engineering ability and population structure.
But as China’s existing cooperation with Belt and Road countries is mainly concerning infrastructure, once US and China cooperate under the Belt and Road framework, both countries could benefit by converging advantages of each other.
The question is will the US, the leader of the world economy for decades, participate in the Belt and Road initiative put forward by China? Probably it would be hard for politicians in the Congress to say yes. But some experts have suggested a Belt and Road version 2.0 which highlights China-US cooperation.
President Trump who had been speaking tough words on China during the election campaign has gotten soft on China recently by not labeling China as a “currency manipulator” publically. People who had been worrying about a trade war between the two countries were also relieved by the meeting between President Xi and President Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month.
Besides having enhanced communication and reached consensuses on some critical issues during the meeting, Trump also accepted Xi’s invitation to visit China. Although it seems unlikely that Trump would join the Belt and Road summit in May, the next meeting between the leaders of the world’s two largest countries is being anticipated.

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