China Belt and Road Initiative

Measuring the impact of improving transportation connectivity on trade in the region

by Hui Lu, Charlene Rohr, Marco Hafner, Anna Knack

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Research Question

  1. What is the impact of improving multimodal transport connectivity on multilateral trade and economic growth in countries and regions across the BRI?

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which have come to be known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is geared towards encouraging greater policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, investment and trade cooperation, financial integration, cultural exchange and regional cooperation between Asia, Europe and Africa, by creating jointly-built trade routes emulating the ancient Silk Road. Using both qualitative and quantitative analysis, this study was to measure the impact of improving transportation multimodal connectivity on multilateral trade and economic growth across countries and regions along China Belt and Road Initiative. This is a proof-of-concept study which is targeted at stimulating discussion and providing empirical evidence on the impact of transport infrastructure improvements in the BRI region. The study's findings aim to be of use to policymakers and stakeholders who are interested in this infrastructure plan.

Key Findings

  • The literature review finds that multimodal transport infrastructure and connectivity can facilitate trade expansion, attract foreign direct investment, speed up the industrialisation process and enable more efficient production networks, facilitate regional integration, and accelerate the process of economic growth.
  • The literature review finds that multimodal transport infrastructure and connectivity can facilitate trade expansion, attract foreign direct investment, speed up the industrialisation process and enable more efficient production networks, facilitate regional integration, and accelerate the process of economic growth.
  • There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between transport infrastructure and connectivity and bilateral trade. Assuming that this relationship is causal, with the proposed level of investment in transport infrastructure in the BRI region, total trade volumes increase not only in the BRI region, but also in the countries outside the initiative (such as those in the EU). Therefore it appears to be a win-win scenario.

Recommendations

  • The BRI region suffers from less developed infrastructure than other regions and this can hamper trade development. Therefore, investing in infrastructure related to trade and transport, such as ports, airports, road, and rail links and connections, should remain a priority and sufficient funding should be made available for this purpose.
  • There could be substantial further benefits if countries and regions along the BRI region coordinate their development plans to achieve compatibility and complementarity between their policies and the infrastructure implementation. Countries should work together to ensure that the initiative delivers sustained economic, social and environmental benefits across generations.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The impact of multimodal transport infrastructure and connectivity on trade and economic growth

  • Chapter Three

    Barriers to and facilitators of transport connectivity

  • Chapter Four

    Measuring multimodal transport connectivity and infrastructure

  • Chapter Five

    Measuring the impact of the BRI on trade

  • Chapter Six

    Summary and conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Country list of the study area

  • Appendix B

    Examples of bilateral distance by different transport model

  • Appendix C

    Relationship between exports and transport indices

Research conducted by

This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted by RAND Europe and the Center for Asia Pacific Policy (CAPP).

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