Interview with Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of the P.R China in Georgia Liu Bo.
— Turkey and China, in cooperation with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan created a transport consortium on transportation of goods from China to Europe bypassing Russia. The relevant agreement was signed on 28th of November in Istanbul. To what extent is this project large-scaled and profitable?
— Now China is a main trading partner of Europe. The turnover of trade between China and Europe is over 500 billion USD every year. According to the forecast, the total volume of trade between China and Europe would reach 1 trillion USD by 2020. In this context, there are great demands of cargo transportation between China and Europe. Now, China is trying to open up more and more trade routes through Eurasia continent in order to meet the transportation demands. One of the most important aspects of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ initiative is to promote the transportation connection from Asia to Europe. Georgia is a gateway between Asia and Europe and has great potential to become a transit country in the process of cargo transportation between the two most active continents. I think the cargo train coming from China to Europe through Georgia is vital. It will help Georgia to strengthen its transit position in the region.
However, the cost of the railway transportation is much higher than that of the sea transportation and it has to cross many countries. It is very important that all the countries along the railway route reach a tariff agreement and make it more convenient in terms of the customs clearance. It is a key factor to the success of the new route from Asia to Europe.
— When will the agreement concerning the free trade between Georgian and China be signed? What will its impact be on the commercial relations between two countries?
— Both China and Georgia attach great importance to the negotiation of the FTA. It took only four month to finish the feasibility study of the FTA by the experts from both sides. Mr. Zhong Shan, the China International Trade Representative and the Deputy Minister of Commerce of China and Mr. Kumsishvili, the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia had just signed a statement announcing the official launching of the FTA negotiations between China and Georgia in December, 2015. Both sides are now preparing for the first round of negotiation. And it will take place in February or March of 2016. I think both sides will finish the negotiation within one year.
After the signing of the FTA, it will greatly reduce the customs tariff of both countries. It will promote the export of wine of Georgia to the Chinese market. Georgian wine will be more competitive in the Chinese market. It will also help to promote investment between our two countries.
— Tbilisi hosted forum ‘Silk Road’. Please name its concrete results?
— Tbilisi Silk Road Forum was a successful event last year. China is the co-organizer of this event. There were more than 500 Chinese businessmen who visited Georgia and took part in all kinds of activities during the Forum. It greatly promoted the exchanges and cooperation between China and Georgia. Many large enterprises of China showed their interests in investing in Georgia. For example, China Dongfang Electric Corporation signed a cooperation agreement with the Georgian Industry Group to build a coal power plant in Tkibuli.
— What can you say about implementation of the ‘Economic Waist of the Silk Road’? What stage is it at?
— When the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013, he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (hereinafter, referred to as the Belt and Road), which have attracted close attention from all over the world.
Accelerating the building of the Belt and Road can help promote the economic prosperity of the countries along the Belt and Road and regional economic cooperation, strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations, and promote world peace and development. It is a great undertaking that will benefit people around the world. The Belt and Road Initiative is a systematic project, which should be jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all, and efforts should be made to integrate the development strategies of the countries along the Belt and Road.
The Belt and Road Initiative is in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It upholds the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
The Initiative is open for cooperation. It covers, but is not limited to, the area of the ancient Silk Road. It is open to all countries, as well as to international and regional organizations for engagement, so that the results of the concerted efforts will benefit wider areas.
The Initiative is harmonious and inclusive. It advocates tolerance among civilizations, respects the paths and modes of the development chosen by different countries, and supports dialogues among different civilizations on the principles of seeking common ground while shelving differences and drawing on each other\’s strengths, so that all countries can coexist in peace for common prosperity.
The Initiative follows market operation. It will abide by market rules and international norms, give play to the decisive role of the market in resource allocation and the primary role of enterprises, and let the governments perform their due functions.
The Initiative seeks mutual benefit. It accommodates the interests and concerns of all parties involved, and seeks a conjunction of interests and the ‘biggest common denominator’ for cooperation so as to give full play to the wisdom and creativity, strengths and potentials of all parties.
For more than two years, the Chinese government has been actively promoting the building of the Belt and Road, enhancing communication and consultation and advancing practical cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road, and introduced a series of policies and measures for early outcomes.
High-level guidance and facilitation. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have visited over 20 countries, attended the Dialogue on Strengthening Connectivity Partnership and the sixth ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, and met with leaders of relevant countries to discuss bilateral relations and regional development issues. They have used these opportunities to explain the rich contents and positive implications of the Belt and Road Initiative, and their efforts have helped bring about a broad consensus on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Signing cooperation framework. China has signed the MOUs of Cooperation on the Joint Development of the Belt and Road with some countries, and on regional cooperation and border cooperation and mid- and long-term development plans for economic and trade cooperation with some neighboring countries. It has proposed outlines of regional cooperation plans with some adjacent countries.
Promoting project cooperation. China has enhanced communication and consultation with countries along the Belt and Road, and promoted a number of key cooperation projects in the fields of infrastructure connectivity, industrial investment, resource development, economic and trade cooperation, financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, ecological protection and maritime cooperation where the conditions are appropriate.
Improving policies and measures. The Chinese government will integrate its domestic resources to provide stronger policy support for the Initiative. It will facilitate the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China has proposed the Silk Road Fund, and the investment function of the China-Eurasia Economic Cooperation Fund will be reinforced. We will encourage bank card clearing institutions to conduct cross-border clearing operations, and payment institutions to conduct cross-border payment business. We will actively promote investment and trade facilitation, and accelerate the reform of integrated regional customs clearance.
Boosting the role of cooperation platforms. A number of international summits, forums, seminars and expos on the theme of the Belt and Road Initiative have been held, which have played an important role in increasing mutual understanding, reaching consensus and deepening cooperation.
— Which spheres are interesting for Chinese investors in Georgia?
— Georgia has a very good investment environment. More and more Chinese potential investors are coming to Georgia and looking for investment opportunities. In my opinion, they are mostly interested in the hydropower sector, tourism sector, trade and infrastructure projects.
Lika Jorjoliani for newcaucasus.com