BEIJING-- The Belt and Road Initiative is gaining more support after state and government leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressed interest to attend the Belt and Road Forum International Cooperation next month.
According to reports posted at the Belt and Road portal, Putin has confirmed his attendance in the Forum slated on May 14-15 in Beijing.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli has described Russia as an important partner among the Belt and Road countries.
Zhang said Chinese President Xi Jing Jinping and Putin have reached strategic consensus to integrate the Belt and Road Initiative and Russia's Eurasian Economic Union.
Another world leader who recently expressed intention to attend the Belt and Road Forum include Switzerland President Doris Leuthard whose country was the first from Europe to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with China.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite Skvernelis has also reportedly said Lithuania is ready to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, seeking cooperation in transportation, agriculture, technology and tourism.
In her recent visit to Beijing, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the Norway is supporting the Belt and Road Initiative.
United Kingdom has also embraced the Belt and Road economic strategy which strengthened the trade between the UK and China through creation of the Yiwu-London rail line.
The Belt and Road Initiative is seen to open a new market to British companies and more opportunity to improve the infrastructure construction and international trade.
Last Monday, Vice Premier Zhang thanked Estonia for its support and participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Zhang said Estonia is an important country by the Baltic Sea and partner of China in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
Last April 14, Zhang also visited Slovenia and promised that China will speed up discussion over the signing of a memorandum of understanding of the Belt and Road Initiative to further boost economic cooperation.
Slovenia is seeking to expand agricultural product export to China and increase bilateral exchanges on culture, education, film-making, tourism and civil aviation.
Recently, French Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Mark Ayrault said France is willing to support Belt and Road Initiative.
Based on the Belt and Road Big Data Center of the State Information Center, China's total value of trade with Belt and Road countries has reached USD 953.59 billion in 2016.
More than 20 heads of state and government, over 50 leaders of international organizations, 100 ministerial-level officials, as well as 1,200 delegates from various countries and regions have confirmed attendance in the Forum.
The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by President Xi in 2013 with the hope of re-establishing the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in at least 65 countries.
China has reportedly invested more than USD 50 billion in countries along the Belt and Road routes since 2013.
A total of 56 economic and trade cooperation zones have been built by Chinese businesses in 20 Belt and Road countries.
President Xi has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to attend the two-day forum of the Belt and Road Initiative which was proposed by the Chinese leader in 2013.
President Duterte visited China in October last year, bringing home USD24 billion of pledges of investments and infrastructure projects.
Source: Philippines News Agency