Xi Jinping’s latest promises of partnership and fair treatment for foreign companies received a cautious welcome from diplomats and delegates at the Belt and Road Forum on Friday, but they also called for concrete action to back them up. The Chinese president promised in his speech that China will further open up, lower tariffs, increase imports, strengthen intellectual property protection and strictly forbid forced technology transfers. He also said China would not seek a trade surplus and promised that foreign partners would be invited to help develop the flagship trade and infrastructure plan in an environmentally sustainable manner. A Belarus diplomat, who declined to be named, said the speech was “largely the same” as previous speeches, including his pledges to further open the Chinese economy. But the diplomat said it was positive to hear that China did not seek a trade surpluses with other countries. Belarus logged a US$2.5 billion trade deficit with China last year. Malaysia’s Mahathir backs China’s belt and road but insists on open trade routes The diplomat also said that Belarus would welcome further foreign direct investment from China. Xi’s speech was delivered hours after the announcement by US President Donald Trump that Xi would soon visit the White House and some of his pledges corresponded with American demands in the talks to end the trade war. Peter Altmaier, the German minister for economic affairs and energy, said the speech was “encouraging” in terms of his commitments to address long-standing problems such as obstacles to market access and the regulatory problems faced by German and other European companies. “This now needs to be implemented,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the forum. China is under growing pressure to respond to external criticisms that its overseas infrastructure projects lack transparency, risk pushing recipients into debts they cannot repay and have failed to boost local economies and employment. Mohammad Abunayyan, chairman of Riyad-based Acwa Power, said Xi’s speech focused significantly on the next steps for the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as areas such as transparency and anti-corruption. He continued: “Unfortunately, many countries have really suffered from this [corruption issues], and it has been, I have to say, a significant deficiency in many of these countries. Also, he has opened the horizon to social and economic transformation and exchange.” Delegates lost and confused at China's high-profile Belt and Road Forum George Tzogopoulos, a delegate from Greece and senior research fellow at the Centre International de Formation Européenne (CIFE), said Xi’s speech was notable for emphasising innovation, the fight against corruption, as well as green development. “Cooperation to protect the environment needs to be strengthened, and that’s why President Xi made a reference to that,” he said. “In a period in which several countries are sceptical about what the Belt and Road Initiative means, China is sending messages about win-win cooperation suggesting that the project is an inclusive one.” Tzogopoulos said it was important that Xi spoke about China not wanting to maintain trade surpluses with other countries, adding that Greece and others in the European Union should seek out ways to export high-quality products and services to China. “So many trains go from China to Europe, but they do not come back full, so this are a very good opportunity. But again this depends on the quality of the products that can be sent to China,” he said.