Tbilisi, Georgia (PortSEurope) October 23, 2019 – Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has opened the two-day Tbilisi Silk Road Forum attended by 2,000 delegates from up to 60 countries, and stated that the New Silk Road, to connect Europe with Asia, and the participation in the initiative is among the top priorities of his government.
“Historically Georgia has played an important role in the development of the Silk Road. In the modern world, when economic integration and globalization is in action, the development of trade and economic relations between countries is of top importance and we are proud to be the part of the Silk Road initiative which serves the goal of close economic, state-to-state cooperation,” Gakharia said.
“We supported the initiative and signed the cooperation deal back in 2015 which gave a new push to Georgia-Chinese relations and led to the signing of the free trade deal,” Gakharia said.
“I am sure that the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum will play an important role in the implementation of the Silk Road initiative. We believe that the forum will help Georgia carry out its function, to be a connecting bridge between Europe and Asia, more effectively,” Gakharia said. He added that in the modern world the creation of new transport corridors between Europe and Asia “is not only the opportunity, but also a necessity.”
This is the third Silk Road forum to be held in Tbilisi.
The European Commission was represented by the director of DG Near Lawrence Meredith, and a minister from Bulgaria and officials from Hungary, the EBRD and the EIB were also among the speakers. No high-level EU delegates were present. Uzbekistan and Armenia sent a deputy Prime Minister, Turkey a minister, and China and Azerbaijan sent a strong delegation of high-level businessmen and politicians.
Moscow was not represented, as Tbilisi doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Russia.
Georgia is a member of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), also known as the Middle Corridor, which combines the countries participating in the new Silk Road project and important players of the region. Other members are leading maritime and transport companies from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, China and Turkey. The organisation aims to popularise the middle corridor, accelerate and simplify cargo transportation procedures between Asia and Europe, and make special preferential tariffs. Between East and West, in terms of cargo, the middle corridor helps to compete with the north-south routes.
TITR also allows European companies to bypass Russia, which until now sanctions the transit of certain types of goods through the country. A number of Russian entities are under sanctions from the international community following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014. The importance of this route was underlined with the inclusion of Georgia and Azerbaijan in the European Union (EU) TEN-T network.
The new Silk Road (part of the Belt and Road initiative also known as One Belt, One Road, or OBOR) is a Chinese economic strategy to seek better access for Chinese-made products in European markets, which includes acquiring stakes in ports and other transport facilities, and cooperation agreements with countries along the Silk Road routes.
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