Belt and Road initiative

To challenge China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road initiative, US has announced its ‘Blue Dot Network’ designed to fund infrastructure “sustainably”.

Some of the main reason for Blue Dot Network are,

  • The Blue Dot Network was jointly started by the US, Japan and Australia
  • Analysts says that it is to challenge China’s Belt and Road initiative fund
  • US officials have likened it to a ‘Michelin Guide’ for Asian infrastructure investors

The plan’s name is a reference to the late scientist Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot and the photo of Earth taken by Voyager 1 from more than 6.4 billion kilometres away.

US Secretary of Commerce Mr Wilbur Ross announced that this move is led by the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Thailand on Tuesday.

A statement on the OPIC website said the network was designed to bring the public and private sector together to “promote high-quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development in an open and inclusive framework”.

“Blue Dot Network will evaluate and certify nominated infrastructure projects based upon adherence to commonly accepted principles and standards to promote market-driven, transparent, and financially sustainable infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world,”

Mr Ross sought to dispel suspicions that the Trump administration is disengaging with the region, a sentiment that deepened when Mr Trump sent White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien to the annual summit, skipping it for a second straight year in order to campaign.

Mr Ross told reporters that “We have no intention of vacating our military or geopolitical position”

He said many people had misinterpreted Mr Trump’s 2017 US decision to pull out of a regional trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as a sign of waning interest. He also said that, “We are here permanently, and we will be continuing to invest more here, and we will be continuing to have more bilateral trade, and I’m spending much more time in the region”

The US is not alone in its complaints about the Chinese infrastructure investment fund. Others have labelled Belt and Road debt-trap diplomacy, given that Beijing has previously demanded concessions or other advantages when a country is unable to keep up with debt repayments.

China is splashing out billions of dollars in concessional loans to developing countries, but what happens when these debt-laden nations can’t pay Beijing back?

This was thrown into focus in 2017 when Sri Lanka was forced to hand control of its Hambantota port to China to write off about $US1 billion of debt relief owed to Beijing.

Earlier in the week Mr O’Brien accused Beijing of “conquest” in the South China Sea — a disputed waterway central to South-East Asia that China has claimed almost in its entirety despite international rulings curtailing some of its claims.

Mr Ross said the Blue Dot Network was in its early stages but that it would include countries committed to “sustainable infrastructure development”.

$US17 billion pledged to projects under the new scheme

The move is the part of President Trump’s admission foreign policy vision focused on what it calls a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” laid out when the President travelled to an ASEAN summit in Manila, Philippines, two years ago — and ended up leaving early.

The Belt and Road initiative was first unveiled by Xi Jinping shortly after he was elected as President in 2013, and been described by analysts as one of the largest and most ambitious foreign policy and economic plans in modern history.

According to US government figures, trade with the region topped $US1.9 trillion in 2018 and helped support more than 3 million American jobs.

At the Blue Dot Network business forum in Bangkok, Japan and the US signed a statement pledging to coordinate on $US10 billion ($14.4 billion) in Japanese investment in liquefied natural gas projects.

Other plans include an agreement to work with the Asian Development Bank in arranging up to $US7 billion in financing in other Asian energy projects.

Source: ABC News

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