Cooperation agreements and MoUs under the Belt and Road Initiative

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often subject of controversial debates. Something that frequently heats up the minds and ignites political debates are governmental-level bilateral signed BRI-MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding), which not only promise cooperation within the framework of BRI, but also substantiate the legitimacy of the initiative. This was seen only recently, when the Australian state of Victoria decided to sign a MoU with China on the BRI. While some stated that signing this MoU is no big deal as the furor over Victoria’s MoU with China overlooks that – in Beijing’s eyes – the BRI is already at work in Australia, neither federal Labor nor the federal government were amused about Victoria’s solo run.

How many Belt and Road MoUs are already signed?

There is no official list or comprehensive compilation on which countries or organizations already have signed BRI-MoUs with China. But when reading Chinese state media during the last year, chances were high to at least once a week find a picture of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, signing a MoU on BRI. According to state-run Xinhua, so far, China has signed 123 cooperation documents on the Belt and Road development with 105 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific region, and 26 such documents with 29 international organizations.

Structure of Belt and Road MoUs

Even if there are differences in the detailed designs of the MoUs, the basic structure of the agreements is similar. After agreeing on enhancing (policy) coordination and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, both signing parties reach an “understanding” of cooperating on the five cooperation priorities of BRI 1. Policy coordination, 2. Facilities connectivity, 3. Unimpeded trade, 4. Financial integration, 5. People-to-people bonds. The five priorities are “guided by the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits”. Genereally speaking, cooperation can cover a wide range of fields such as joint transportation infrastructure development, joint set-up of industrial parks, establishment of sister-city networks, trade and investment promotion, financial cooperation (such as strategic cooperation with the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank, AIIB) or the joint collaboration in regional initiatives.

Are Belt and Road MoUs legally binding?

At the end of the documents (see e.g. BRI-MoU China-Victoria or BRI-MoU China-Latvia), both parties agree that the document is not legally binding. But even if not legally binding, according to Chris Devonshire-Ellis, “certain elements within the MoU could be interpreted by either party, and especially the Chinese. Such interpretations can, in fact, influence the way in which China views statements made within the MoU, and regard these as important in future diplomatic talks. In short, the purpose of these non-legally binding MoU is to influence, rather than direct.”

“The MoU appear largely benign; however, it does contain the seeds of what could, in future, be used as diplomatic tools in terms of insisting that agreements have been reached over certain areas.” (Chris Devonshire-Ellis)

Countries and organizations, which officially pledged support to the Belt and Road Initiative (by MoUs or Joint Statements/Communiques)

*this list is not complete and is being updated continuously

FranceJoint Declaration2018
AfghanistanJoint Statement2018
African UnionMoU2018
Antigua and BarbudaMoU2018
Bosnia and HerzegovinaMoU2017
Czech RepublicMoU2015
European UnionJoint Statement
FinlandJoint Declaration2017
FranceJoint Declaration2018
IndonesiaJoint Statement2015
KazakhstanJoint Declaration2015
MaledivesJoint Communique2017
MyanmarJoint Communique2016
New ZealandMoA2017
PakistanJoint Statement2018
Papua New GuineaJoint Communique2016
PhilippinesJoint Statement2017
South AfricaMoU2015
ThailandJoint Communique2014
Timor-LesteJoint Statement2014
TongaJoint Communique, MoU2018
Trinidad and TobagoMoU2018
United Arab EmiratesFramework Agreement2017
Victoria, AustraliaMoU2018
Arab Chambers of CommerceMoU2017
Cote d'IvoireMoU2018
Sierra LeoneMoU2018
Costa RicaMoU2018

Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park

Located in the desert area of Lal Sohanra, spanning 2,630 hectares with installed flat-panel PV and a total installed capacity of 1,000 MW, the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park is one of the worlds largest solar power plant. Being the first utility-scale, grid connected solar power plant of Pakistan, the project consists of three phases (Phase I – 100 MW, Phase II – 300MW and Phase III – 600MW). The Solar Park in the long run is expected to play a critical role in attempting to bridge the supply demand gap that Pakistan is facing.

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UEP Wind Farm

The UEP Wind Farm is one of five Wind Farms developed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of the Belt and Road Initiative. With an installed capacity of 99 MW it is the largest wind power project developed under CPEC. Like most other wind projects in Pakistan, the UEP Wind Farm is located in Jhimpir, which is part of the so-called “Gharo-Jhimpir wind corridor”, a 180 km stretch of coastal land with high wind power production potential.

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Suki Kinari Hydropower Project

The Suki Kinari Hydropower Project will be a run-of-the-river hydropower plant located on the Kunhar river in the Kaghan valley with an installed capacity of 870 MW and an annual generation of 2,958 GWh. Already in 1960, this project was proposed and underlined through a feasibility study but could only be finalized in 2016.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Karot Hydropower Plant

The hydropower potential of the Jhelum River was identified by various studies carried out by international agencies. Already the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) proposed the Karot Hydropower Project in 1994. The Karot Hydropower Station in Pakistan is the first investment project of the Silk Road Fund and is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It is a run-of-river concrete-core rock fill gravity dam with an installed capacity of 720 MW. Its is one of five hydropower stations planned to be built on the Jhelum River. The dam is expected to be 95.5m-high and 460m across the Jhelum River.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Pakistan-China Optical Fibre Cable Project

The Pakistan-China Optical Fibre Cable project provides 3G and 4G services to Pakistan. The cable spans a distance of 2,950 kilometers, connecting Rawalpindi (Punjab) with Khunjerab (Gilgit Baltistan) at the Chinese border at a height of 4,700 metres above the sea level, northwards to Urumqi in Xinjiang Autonomous Region (China). The 820 km long Pakistan section (Phase 1) is the only Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project under the Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In a second phase, the cable will be further extended to Gwadar in Balochistan, Pakistan. The project is part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Havelian Dry Port

The Havelian dry port is being built in the vicinity of Baldhair railway station, about five kilometres from Haripur city and  is designed to meet the demand of the containerized future freight traffic between China and Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Belt and Road Initiative. Havelian dry port will be an essential joint in the logistic infrastructure between the northern terminus of the ML-1 railway line (Karachi–Peshawar) and the southern terminus of the upgraded Karakorum Highway coming from the north, linking Pakistan to China.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Motorway M-5 (Sukkur – Multan)

The Motorway M5 (Multan-Sukkur section) connects Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh province and Multan in the Punjab region. The 392km long stretch, following the Left Bank of River Indus, is part of the Peshawar-Karachi motorway, a key project of the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Belt and Road Initiative.

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