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Silk Road Minister talks up business opportunities after Central Asia visit

The China Railway Express China-Europe

The China Railway Express China-Europe line is part of the effort to resurrect the ancient trade route that facilitated commercial exchange between Europe and Asia.

(Keystone)

Following a visit to the region, Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced on Wednesday Switzerland’s goal to strengthen mutual economic opportunities in Central Asia as China’s ‘Silk Road’ initiative becomes reality.

In an interviewexternal link with the German-language newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Schneider-Ammann said that the new Chinese Silk Road project was not just a utopia, but a concrete opportunity opening up many possibilities in the region.

Officially known as the “Belt and Road Initiative,” the ambitious project was launched in 2013 by Chinese president Xi Jinping, and aims to resurrect the ancient trade route that facilitated commercial exchange between Europe and Asia.

The project’s ambition to promote trade and improve the transfer of technologies would benefit many people in the Central Asia region, Schneider-Ammann said.

+ Swiss president attends Silk road summit 

It marks an opportunity for the Chinese to use their enormous foreign currency reserves quickly and effectively, which neither the US nor Europe are doing, he said.

Risks and opportunities

Schneider-Ammann said he preferred to look at the benefits of the project, rather than at the potential risks.

Switzerland did not make itself an enabler of Chinese imperialism by investing into the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, he said, because the sums invested were far too small.

With regards to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, the Federal Councillor said that they represent an enormous economic potential, “even just based on the raw materials alone”.

He was particularly impressed by Uzbekistan, where he felt “an enormous will towards progress and cooperation” and said that this mentality provided an ideal basis to build a partnership.

Respect for Trump

The interview also touched on recent political and economic developments in the US. When asked about the president, Schneider-Ammann refused to criticise Donald Trump.

It was unreasonable to expect the Americans “to keep the whole world in order”, whilst amassing huge trade deficits year on year.

As a businessman, Trump knew that “he had to do something”. “I respect that he had the courage to do that,” Schneider-Ammann said.

swissinfo.ch/ln

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