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New infrastructure deal set to rival China’s Belt and Road


The EU and Japan last week signed an infrastructure agreement aimed at linking Europe and Asia in what has been called "a barely veiled bid to counter China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative."


According to an article published by European Views, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed the accord at the end of September, agreeing to coordinate infrastructure, digital and transport projects. 


The article said that: "After the bloc last year launched its “Asia connectivity” strategy, it seems Japan is wasting little time in throwing its hat in the ring; Beijing, on the other hand, seems determined to forge ahead with its own “new Silk Road” of railways, ports and roads stretching across the world relying on billions in Chinese loans. 


The EU-Japan agreement is explicit in stressing the importance of the environmental and fiscal sustainability of joint projects." 


During the signing ceremony, Junker told those present: “Connectivity must be sustainable in financial terms- we must bequeath to the next generation a more interconnected world, a cleaner environment and not mountains of debt. It’s also a question of creating interconnections between all countries in the world and not merely dependence on one country.”


China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been endorsed by more than 150 countries and international organisations, including more than half of the EU’s 28 member states. Critics have said the project has opaque funding, fails to meet environmental standards and tends to saddle host countries with unsustainable levels of debt.


The EU-Japan agreement calls for “transparent procurement practices, the ensuring of debt sustainability and the high standards of economic, fiscal, financial, social and environmental sustainability.” 


“Whether it be a single road or a single port,” Abe said, “when the EU and Japan undertake something, we are able to build sustainable, rules-based connectivity from the Indo-Pacific to the Western Balkans and Africa.”