Free trade is lifeblood of global economy: BHP CEO

SYDNEY, XINHUA -- Chief executive officer (CEO) of Australian mining giant BHP Andrew Mackenzie has emphasized the importance of free trade at a high level business summit in Sydney on Tuesday.

Describing the recent U.S. move to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminium products as a "black day for the world and business," Mackenzie told the forum that "BHP will never seek to hide behind trade barriers to shield ourselves from our lack of competitiveness."

"Free trade is self-evidently the lifeblood of the global economy, and we expect it to flourish despite the regrettable developments in the United States," he said.

Although hindered by the proposed protectionist rhetoric, the world economy is in the "strongest shape it has been since 2010," said the business leader.

"Elsewhere we observe buoyant economic conditions underpinned by the growth of free trade outside the United States," he said.

As an export-based company, BHP champions international cooperation and has previously lent its support to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative that aims to improve land and sea trade routes to promote growth and prosperity around the world.

"At its core, BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) is about infrastructure development. Power, railways, pipelines and other transport projects account for 70 percent of the total investment in our project database," BHP said in a 2017 report.

"The demand for infrastructure investment in BRI regions is huge."

Many of the countries and regions along the Belt and Road rely on steel imports, which could mean an increased demand of 150 million tons of extra steel and a massive windfall for the mineral producer, according to BHP estimates.