CPEC is not directed at India, says China

He said there were "complementarities" between his government's plans to develop northern Australia and China's initiative but he emphasised they were "separate".

The China-bankrolled project involves a massive network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks spanning some 65 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe.

The Philippines is keen to work with Chinese firms on more infrastructure-related projects, said Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.

Xi on Sunday opened the two-day meeting by pledging 540 billion yuan (US$78 billion) in financing, including 100 billion yuan for China's Silk Road Fund, 380 billion yuan in new lending for participating nations and 60 billion yuan in coming years to developing countries and global organizations that join the program.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, foreground second left, walks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground right, and other leaders as they arrive for a family photo session during the Belt and Road Forum at the meeting's venue by Yanqi Lake just outside Beijing, China, May 15, 2017.

European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen said yesterday that European Union member states would not be signing ministerial statements connected to the summit, though he downplayed the significance.

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Outgoing President Francois Hollande was forced by the polls not to seek re-election. Their reaction to the news that Valls wanted to join them was hardly greeted warmly.

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

"One single feather does not make a bird fly high", the president said. "The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of the Belt and Road is not about conflicts with various countries and will not affect China's position on Kashmir issue", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

"India was openly sceptical of China's Belt and Road Forum (BRF) hours ahead of the opening of the event, mainly due to concerns over the CPEC, a key project of the B&R, and whether it might influence the disputed Kashmir region", the report said.

Xi's speech also drew implicit contrast between Chinese-style development objectives and those of the West, saying the initiative will not resort to "outdated geopolitical maneuvering".

Xi has already pledged more than $100 billion for China's development banks for infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa. "This is an important lesson that can be drawn from the global financial crisis and is still very relevant to the development of the world economy today", he said. Discussions focused on China's New Silk Road trade project - an initiative to create new trading routes across parts of the developing world.

The TPP, touted by the previous USA administration of President Barack Obama, has effectively been killed by Trump.

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