Labor is keeping the door open on signing up for China’s ambitious new Silk Road plan.
One Belt One Road is the superpower’s vast infrastructure blueprint to boost trade and cut transit times by forging a connection via the ancient Silk Road land route and sea routes with Eurasia, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Sixty-eight countries have signed up for the scheme including New Zealand but Australia is holding out, mostly over national security concerns.
In a speech to the Asia Society in Sydney on Friday, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen will flag support for potential Australian involvement.
He’ll argue the scheme “will have profound ramifications for years to come”.
“We will come to office if we win the next election with an open mind as to how Australia and China can best collaborate on the Belt and Road Initiative, with a clear-eyed approach to our respective national interests,” Mr Bowen will say.
“We will examine proposals on a case by case basis including considering how the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the Belt and Road Initiative can best complement each other.”
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has also spoken favourably of the scheme and believes Australia should be more confident about harnessing its opportunities.
She maintains the Abbott government’s initial reluctance to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2014 was “timorous and self-defeating”.
Roads, railways, high-speed train networks, maritime ports and airports are among the projects the scheme is building and funding.
It’s open to all countries, not just those physically on the ancient trade routes.
There is $1.8 trillion worth of projects already initiated.
The scheme – which is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy – is more than seven times larger than America’s Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.