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  • Associated Press Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a summit at the “Belt and Road” forum in Beijing on Monday. Pledging more than $100 billion in financing, Xi called Sunday for closer cooperation across Asia and Europe.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 1:00 am

Beijing's 'Belt and Road'

Plan: Asia, Europe move closer on law, other issues

JOE McDONALD and MATTHEW BROWN | Associated Press

BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed ambitious hopes for Asian and European governments to work more closely on finance, law enforcement and a broad range of other issues as leaders from 30 nations issued a joint endorsement Monday of a Beijing-led trade initiative.

The “Belt and Road” project is China's biggest foreign initiative to date as Beijing looks for global stature to match its economic success. It calls for expanding trade across Asia, Africa and Europe with multibillion-dollar investments in ports, railways and other facilities, but governments including Russia, the U.S. and India are uneasy Beijing is using it to gain political influence.

Xi said the project has “no political agenda.” But he expressed hope governments taking part in the initiative will coordinate policy in finance, law enforcement, technology and education – areas where China's status as the biggest Asian economy would allow Beijing to dominate.

“It is our hope that through the 'Belt and Road' development, we will unleash new forces for global economic growth,” Xi told reporters at a conference center in the hills north of the Chinese capital.

The two-day meeting included Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and presidents or prime ministers from Italy, Hungary, Greece, Kenya and most of China's Asian neighbors but no major Western leaders.

Britain, France and Germany were represented by finance or trade officials. The U.S. sent a delegation led by the Asia director of President Donald Trump's National Security Council.

A joint statement by the leaders appeared to be crafted to defuse fears Beijing is trying to create a China-dominated bloc and rewrite global trade rules.

It endorsed a “rules-based” system, a possible attempt to reassure Western governments that worry Beijing might try to erode the World Trade Organization system under which all competitors are treated equally.

“We endeavor to promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system with WTO at its core,” the statement said.

Xi acknowledged the initiative is in its early stages and faces daunting obstacles.

“One single feather does not make a bird fly high,” he said.