Within the framework of the visit to China, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava met with Li Xiaopeng, the Minister of Transport of the People’s Republic of China.
Trade and economic relations between Georgia and China and the development of the transportation links within the frames of the Belt & Road Initiative were given special emphases during the meeting.
It was highlighted that in parallel to the deepening of economic and trade relations, Georgia and China have made significant progress in strengthening cooperation in all transport sectors. The parties expressed hopes that the transport links between Georgia and China would be further developed to provide access to key markets, promote mobility and connectivity for the benefit of all the participants. The process also includes the development of short and reliable transport routes between Asia and Europe in line with the main objectives of the Belt and Road Initiative.
According to Natia Turnava, Georgian Government is particularly interested in further development of the multi-modal rail transport and increasing the intensity of the regular trains via the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route or so called Middle Corridor. It has been noted that the use of the Middle Corridor has been increased in recent years. In 2018, the number of shipped containers reached 1332 TEUs. Moreover, 1215 TEUs have already been shipped during the 9 months of 2019, which is by 25,5% higher number compared to the same period of 2018.
The Minister noted that the commencement of regular train service from the Lianyungang Port to Istanbul is an important step forward in developing the Middle Corridor. In addition, in October 2019, a pilot block-train departed from the Chinese city of Xi'an to the Czech capital of Prague. The Logistic companies of the Xi'an are eager to make this rout regular.
Natia Turnava spoke in details about the measures taken by the country’s Government to promote the Middle Corridor. These include launching a direct container ship to Ukraine, signing Memorandums with Romania and Azerbaijan on launching regular freight traffic between the Batumi Port and the Romanian port of Constanta. Work is also underway to increase the frequency of the ferry traffic with Bulgaria to ensure smooth access to the Black Sea, allowing for gaining better access to the European market, attract more cargo, etc.
“We have the ambition to make the Middle Corridor one of the priority routs for China,” – the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development said.
The Minister of Transport of China also emphasized the potential of the Middle Corridor and its development, saying that the route has great potential and needs to be promoted. Li Xiaopeng accepted the suggestion of his Georgian counterpart on the need of setting up a permanent working group that will actively work on increasing the Middle Corridor capacity and eliminate the existing challenges.
One of the important issues discussed at the meeting was the recognition of seafarers certificates by the both countries.
According to Natia Turnava, exchange programs in maritime education are already launched between the two countries, and Shanghai Maritime University is already offering scholarships to Georgian graduates.
“Today, we have received a promise from the Chinese Minister of Transport that the existing exchange programs will be expanded and that maritime universities will offer more scholarships to Georgian students, which is very important” – Natia Turnava added.
The meeting also focused on strengthening cooperation between the countries in the field of the civil aviation and the maritime transport.
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