Baku, Azerbaijan, May 24
By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:
A number of important and interesting proposals and initiatives were made at the eighth Astana Economic Forum. One of such initiatives was President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev's proposal to create a high-speed multi-modal transport route linking Asian and European countries.
In fact, this idea is not new for Kazakhstan. At the highest level the country's officials have repeatedly stressed their intention to develop the transit potential. This issue is one of the most important for the development of Kazakhstan's economy. Kazakhstan has no sea route.
Without developing the transport routes, the country will be blocked in the center of the Eurasian continent in the future. At the same time, given its position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the necessary infrastructure, Kazakhstan can attract huge flows of goods transported from China to Europe, and open the opportunities for expanding the trade between North and South.
Today, the goods from China are transported to Europe through Russia by air, which is an expensive way, or by sea, which is a long way, bypassing the entire Eurasian continent. If a new transit route appears - the route from China to Europe via Central Asia and the Caucasus, it will be much more profitable for producers. This route will be almost three times shorter than the sea route. Consequently, goods can be delivered much faster and cheaper.
At the same time, cargo transportation will bring enormous benefits to the economy of the transit countries. At present, the trade volumes between China and the EU account for nearly $ 600 billion. By 2020, according to the forecasts, this figure will rise to $800 billion. If the Central Asian countries and the Caucasus are able to attract even a small percentage of these goods, they can eventually get significant and stable income.
Only infrastructure is required to implement these plans. And it is partially ready. Thus, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is almost ready in the area stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. It is planned to be commissioned until the end of 2015.
A new large international Alat port is being constructed in the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan. The port of Aktau is being expanded. A new ferry complex Kuryk is being constructed in Kazakhstan.
The large rail networks are being actively built in the territory of the Central Asian countries. So, the Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran railway was put into operation in 2014.
Several railway lines linking China and Kazakhstan have been recently built. This makes the transportation of goods between the two countries faster and more comfortable.
Moreover, it was repeatedly stressed about intentions to implement new railway projects in Kazakhstan. So, President Nazarbayev said in early May that the negotiations are underway with China to build a railway from the Kazakh-Chinese border to the sea port of Aktau.
Thus, in the next few years, the entire infrastructure, necessary for the transportation of large cargo flows via the shortest way, will be ready. This will revive the Silk Road via the same route through which it passed hundreds years ago.
The transit countries will have to closely cooperate and pass to freer trade. This will really make this route convenient for consumers. Otherwise, importers and exporters will wallow in red tape by obtaining permits in each country. And this will negate the attractiveness of this way.
Trend commentator Elena Kosolapova
follow the author on Twitter: @E_Kosolapova