KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia –China expects its annual trade with countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to surpass US$2.5 trillion (US$1 = RM4.29) in the next decade, says HSBC.

HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd, Head of International Subsidiary Business, Ian McElwain said China’s BRI, a developmental programme designed to link the country’s southern and eastern commercial hubs with Europe and Africa, will greatly benefit ASEAN growth and plug a huge infrastructure gap.

“The emphasis on creating better-connected economies to help facilitate trade and investment and the flow of goods and people, will get a further boost from China’s BRI, which is key to government ambitions to double bilateral trade between China and ASEAN to US$1 trillion by 2020 from around US$500 billion last year,” he added.

He was speaking at the HSBC’s Media Briefing: ‘ASEAN – The Future Starts Here’, here Thursday.

The bank highlighted that ASEAN had marked its 50th anniversary with its biggest economies pledging to double infrastructure investments to more than US$700 billion in a five-year span that could enhance trade, tourism and development to drive sustainable economic growth for decades to come.

Transport initiatives are a key focus for budgeted spending between 2016-2020, with Indonesia and Thailand at the forefront of the infrastructure push.

Malaysia’s infrastructure – largely mature – as the country has heavily invested in road and rail connectivity over the past few years, is seeing a push to improve internal and external connectivity.

McElwain said the increase in trade and investment through China’s BRI will accelerate the use of the Renminbi (RMB) as a global trade, financing and investment currency.

More than 300 Chinese-funded enterprises have been set up in 26 economic cooperation zones in eight ASEAN countries, investing a total of US$1.77 billion.

“RMB internationalisation and the BRI go hand in hand. Through this initiative, Chinese companies will make increasing amounts of overseas investments, some of which will be denominated in RMB,” McElwain said.

Some of the fundraising required for the BRI will be denominated in RMB. A widening range of RMB related products will entice companies to use it for cross-border trade, cash management, financing and investment purposes.

“Chinese companies will definitely play a bigger role in increasing the international usage of the RMB, a fundamental purpose of the BRI,” McElwain said.

China is Malaysia’s biggest export market, and largest trading partner since 2009, displacing Singapore, with two-way trade last year valued at US$83.4 billion.