Countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America
Topic A: The consequences of China’s Belt and Road initiative for the global economy
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a Chinese effort to improve trade links and infrastructure between China and 65 other countries, which currently accounts for over 30% of global GDP. The BRI consists of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ connecting China with Central and South Asia and the ‘New Maritime Silk Road’ linking China to Southeast Asian nations, the Gulf states, North Africa and Europe. The Chinese government seeks to improve regional cooperation by offering use of their more developed transport infrastructure, reducing transportation costs and time. Consequently, countries may become dependent on China for investment funds and trade. However, to develop the BRI significant infrastructure and policy reforms are necessary, risking participant nation’s fiscal sustainability. Additionally, there are environmental and social consequences, such as the loss of biodiversity due to large scale infrastructure projects which are commonly overlooked. Furthermore, there is a large risk for developing countries as they must take loans from China to fund these large-scale infrastructure projects. A final risk lies in custom procedures and foreign direct investment (FDI) restrictions amongst BRI countries, where policy barriers can lead to less free borders and hinder a fast movement of goods between countries (both within and outside the BRI).
Topic B: Reducing the ties between plastic and the food industry
The mass usage of plastic has come to be recognized as a global problem for the last decade and the food industry contributes to this problem in a variety of ways, from single-use plastic wrapping, to disposable crockery. Plastic as we know it has only existed for the last 90 years, but in that time it has transformed everything from aspect of the market, including product design, engineering, production, packaging through which the food industry was transformed. The durability of plastic was seen as one of its biggest advantages, but has come to be a major disadvantage as it contributes to extensive amounts of plastic waste and filtering into the plastic soup. Recent efforts lead by local activists have targeted companies and local governments, calling for a reduction in the usage of plastic packaging and other single-use materials, such as straws and cutlery. Key to this will be the discussion of single use plastics and the attempt to increase recycling, as right now less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled globally.