BEIJING, May 15, 2017 -- Representatives from the world's major economies including all G7 countries were present at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that opened here on Sunday.
The forum is by far the most important meeting on the Belt and Road Initiative since Chinese President Xi Jinping first raised the concept in 2013. It is the largest-scale and highest-level international gathering initiated by China.
It is estimated that the 130-plus countries represented at the two-day forum are home to more than two thirds of the world's population and their combined gross domestic product accounts for 90 percent of the world's total.
The United States is not absent. Matt Pottinger, special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, led the U.S. delegation.
Announcing the U.S. participation two days before the forum, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Belt and Road is a major trade initiative that "we're going to continue to work with them."
Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, led the Japanese delegation.
British Prime Minister Theresa May was represented by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, German Chancellor Angela Merkel by Minister of Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries, while former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin came as a special envoy of the president.
Raffarin told Xinhua that president-elect Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated on Sunday.
"Macron wants to send the message to China that he supports the initiative," Raffarin said. "France is very interested in the initiative that is to develop Eurasia."
He said the initiative will bring about investment, infrastructure and a lot of jobs along the Belt and Road, as an effective way to solve the world's myriad problems.
In an interview with Xinhua before his trip to Beijing, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the initiative was perhaps the most important modern infrastructure project underway in the world today.
"Bringing the Chinese economy closer through this gigantic infrastructure operation is enormously interesting to Italy," Gentiloni said.
Xi said the Belt and Road, rooted in the ancient Silk Road, focuses on the Asian, European and African continents. But it is also open to all. Countries from either Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas can be international cooperation partners.