Centuries after the Silk Road was established to facilitate trade between the East and the West, the historic trade route is starting to offer new benefits.
More than 800 high officials attending the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum are today discussing the prospects of the New Silk Road and how to best use Georgia's transit potential.
On day two of the Forum, being held in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, the country’s economic team offered specific investment projects to potential big investors, with trade, energy, transport, infrastructure and tourism industries in focus for future joint projects.
On day one of the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, keynote speakers announced several projects would be implement in Georgia. Photo from Georgia's Economy Ministry/Facebook.
Anaklia Black Sea Port
The Anaklia Port development project is considered as one of the first and major projects to be implemented within the New Silk Road initiative.
The Georgian Government decided to develop the Anaklia deep-water port a year ago. In August 2014 the Government asked potential investors to submit expressions of interest to develop the mixed-cargo port on a build, operate and transfer basis. The newly-developed port will be located on Georgia’s Black Sea coast near Anaklia in western Georgia, and will be spread over 1,000 hectares and have access to a deep sea canyon.
The expansion will allow the Port has the ability to receive large vessels of at least 6,500 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit).
As well as developing Anaklia Port, upgrading and developing logistics and industrial zones and constructing an airport and liquid gas terminal were also planned for the region.
Authorities are expected to announce a free economic zone on the Anaklia Port territory however further details were yet to be finalised prior to execution of the investment agreement.
Since its announcement the Anaklia Black Sea Port development project has attracted interest from a range of large companies, including China’s state power enterprise Power China. A specially-established commission is expected to reveal the tender-winning company at the end of October.
Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili (C) introduces different investment projects to the Forum's honourable guests. Photo from the Prime Minister's press office/Facebook.
Rikoti Pass toll road
Other projects implemented in Georgia through the efforts of Silk Road Forum participant investors was the Rikoti Pass toll road, the Tbilisi railway bypass and more.
While delivering a speech at the conference yesterday, Georgia’s Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili said Georgia was expecting "big investments” in the infrastructure direction.
Investing in developing the Silk Road happens every day. Only the Chinese side created several instruments to finance infrastructural projects. These instruments are the Silk Road Foundation, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other important financial institutions, which are completely intended to finance the infrastructural projects,” Kumsishvili said.
Meanwhile, Chinese investors expressed interest in building a new toll road through the Rikoti Pass, connecting the eastern and western parts of Georgia.
The existing tunnel, which was built during the Soviet Union, has been undergoing repair for several years and been closed for some periods, forcing drivers to instead use a winding mountain road.
Georgia’s Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Nodar Javakhishvili promised more Chinese goods would circulate through Georgia via the highways if Chinese investors were to invest in the Rikoti Pass toll road.
We may agree on this for 30 to 50 years and if we agree and they construct a road and manage it for this period, then this will be a paid road and investments will be returned,” he said.
Keynote speakers state importance of Silk Road Forum
Today is the second and final day Tbilisi is hosting government representatives from 30 countries, 20 international financial and donor organisation officials and envoys from about 300 large Chinese companies at the first Tbilisi Silk Road Forum.
More than 800 honourable guests are attending the two-day Tbilisi Silk Road Forum. Photo from Georgia's Economy Ministry/Facebook.
The international event features addresses by distinguished keynote speakers, giving business executives and policymakers the chance to share their views, experiences and expertise on how to reestablish the historic Silk Road to reinvigorate trade with Asia.
All countries in the region have an excellent opportunity to build new infrastructure that would benefit not only Georgia but the whole region,” said US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews in his speech.
Meanwhile Kazakhstan’s Vice Prime Minister Valery Dil expressed hope that countries would establish a number of programs to better integrate "our economies”.
Currently we are actively working in this direction in Kyrgyzstan and we plan to implement large projects step-by-step,” Dil said.
I would highlight one important factor which should be also very important for Georgia – this is a time factor. It is important everything should be done on time to ensure that our countries’ populations feel the benefits of the greatest Silk Road project,” he added.
Georgia-Slovenia sign transport agreement
Yesterday Georgia’s Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili met Slovenia’s Infrastructure Minister Peter Gasperic and discussed opportunities to strengthen trade and economic relations between the two countries.
Georgia’s Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili and Slovenia’s Infrastructure Minister Peter Gasperic signed an agreement on International Road Transport of Passengers and Cargo. Photo from Georgia's Economy Ministry/Facebook.
Afterwards the Ministers signed an agreement on International Road Transport of Passengers and Cargo. Kumsishvili said this agreement meant Georgian and Slovenian transport vehicles could now move around their partner county safer.
At the meeting the sides also talked about developing tourism and launching direct flights between the countries.