China’s Belt and Road initiative: can Europe expect trade gains?
The Belt and Road aims to ease bottlenecks for cross-border trade in Asia, Europe and Africa. This paper measures empirically whether the reduction in transportation costs will have a positive impact on trade flows for Belt and Road countries and for EU countries. The authors also explore the possibility that the Belt and Road may eventually go beyond its current objectives towards the creation of a free trade area.
The Belt and Road initiative, recently embarked on by China, aims to improve cross-border infrastructure in order to reduce transportation costs across a massive geographical area between China and Europe.
The authors estimate how much trade might be created among Belt and Road countries as a consequence of the reduction in transportation costs (both railway and maritime) and find that European Union countries, especially landlocked countries, should benefit considerably. This is also true for eastern Europe and Central Asia and, to a lesser extent, south-east Asia.
In contrast, if China were to seek to establish a free trade area within the Belt and Road region, EU member states would benefit less, while Asia would benefit more. Xi Jinping’s current vision for the Belt and Road, centred on improving transport infrastructure, is very good news for Europe as far as trade creation is concerned.