"Belt and Road" cooperation promotes the development in Iberian Penin
Ahead of President Xi Jinping's visit to Spain and Portugal, some observers in the Iberian Peninsula have spoken of the role of China's Belt and Road Initiative in fostering economic opportunities in the region.
Ricardo Barkala is the head of the Bilbao Port Authority. He spoke highly of the opportunities that the Belt and Road Initiative can provide to boost global economic growth.
A photo shows container ships at Port of Valencia. [Photo:Li Lin]
"In our opinion, it's an economic, huge opportunity for the world. And maybe, for the international trade. If Spain becomes Europe's gateway for Asia, we reach and be part of this channel. And the trade will also thrives between Spain and China."
A year ago, China's COSCO Shipping Ports Limited bought a 51 percent stake in Spain's Noatum Ports group, becoming the operator of container terminals in the ports of Valencia and Bilbao, as well as a railway station in Madrid and one in Zaragaza.
Sun Kai, the managing director of Noatum Ports, said the company is aiming to turn Valencia into a pivotal port in the western Mediterranean, that can focus on serving nearby Belt and Road countries.
"Building a pivotal port in the western Mediterranean is very important. Valencia, and in the future Bilbao, are both good choices. What's more, Spain, as the fifth-largest economy in the European Union, saw its GDP growth rise by over 3 percent in the past three years. What's our shipping for? It's to serve trade. There would be no shipping without trade."
The Belt and Road Initiative has already led to growing cooperation between China and Spain.
One example of this was the opening of the railway that links the city of Yiwu, China's hub for small commodity manufacturing, and Spain's capital Madrid. The railway quickly became an artery for trade across Eurasia.
And further afield, the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation and Spain United Technologies Corporation joined hands to submit the winning bid for an oil refinery project in Kuwait.
China has also made a push to strengthen its ties to the markets of Spain's neighbor Portugal.
So far, China's investment in Portugal has exceeded nine billion Euros, making it the fifth-largest destination of China's capital investment outflows to Europe.
Looking to the future prospects for trade in the region, Portugal's Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva sees potential value in the alignment between the European Union's new Eurasian interconnection plan and the Belt and Road Initiative.
"For the benefit of Portugal, we can increase the value of domestic ports by implementing the Belt and Road Initiative. The Eurasian interconnection will also improve global interconnections. For example, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road meet at the port of Sines in Portugal. It is also the closest European port to the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific waterways."
Spain and Portugal form the first and last legs of President Xi Jinping's ongoing international trip that will also take him to Panama, and to Argentina, where he will attend this year's G20 Summit in Buenos Aires.