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EU Logistics In The BRI Maps: Synergy of BRI and TEN-T

Maria Smotrytska

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Today, the logistics centers play an important role in the development of various formats of international interaction at the beginning of the new Millennium. At the present stage, their role is particularly high in the context of integration processes at the regional and global levels. The trends of globalization and regionalization led to the formation of the concept of “global region” and the increasing competition of integration associations for sales markets.

The current fight in the transit transport market in the regions of the world is becoming more complicated, as in modern conditions, competition for transit cargo flows is moving from offering more rational routes and cost-effective services to meeting the geopolitical and geo-economic interests of the main participants.

In this regard, initiatives by individual States or mega-partnerships to build new systems and channels of economic interaction between individual countries and subregions are emerging in regions of the world. It should be understood that the implementation of such projects requires the creation of a new architecture of international transport corridors. Thus, in response to the new challenges of developing economic relations between Europe and Asia, EU leaders began to take steps towards the development of logistics routes on the continent.

The Concept of the pan-European corridor was one of the first to appear as part of the concept of pan-European transport infrastructure and was developed for more than 8 years at the so-called Prague (1991), Cretan (1994) and Helsinki (1997) conferences. Its main goal was to increase the EU’s connectivity with its (back then) potential members – the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). After the Helsinki conference, the content of the pan-European transport and infrastructure network was formulated, which consists of : 1. Trans – European transport network in the EU (TEN-T); 2. 10 pan-European corridors in CEE; 3. 4 pan-European transport zones; 4. TRACECA Eurasian routes.

The implementation of the 10 pan-European corridors program (in 1995 – 2005) was closely linked to integration processes in Europe and the desire to develop pan-European cooperation. Nevertheless, the large number of States in Europe and the borders separating them, and differences in the rules governing international transport, significantly slowed down the cross-border movement of goods.

After the EU enlargement in 2005, a Program was developed to expand the main transport routes (5 logistic roads) to neighboring countries and regions, which were considered as an infrastructure framework for pan-European economic cooperation, which was linked to the future prospects of the EU .

Deepening integration processes within the Union and building up mutual economic and social ties have revealed bottlenecks in European logistics in the form of disparate national projects for its development, lagging in the introduction of intermodal transport technologies, and insufficient coordination of the development of individual modes of transport and improving their environmental friendliness. In order to eliminate these bottlenecks, the EU adopted the Trans – European transport network development program (TEN-T), designed up to 2050.

TEN-T consists of two subsystems: a comprehensive one that provides integrated transport development in the EU countries and a high-speed connection of about a hundred European urban agglomerations, all major seaports, airports and border checkpoints, and a basic one in the form of Trans – European highways, where international traffic is concentrated. There are 9 main logistics hubs: North sea – Baltic; Mediterranean ; Rhine – Danube ; Baltic – Adriatic ; North sea – Mediterranean ; middle East ; Atlantic ; Scandinavia – Mediterranean; Rhine – Alps.

The implementation of the program allows ensuring the smooth functioning of the internal market, economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU, and improving transport accessibility throughout the Union.

Another EU project to strengthen logistics routes along the EU – Asia line was the TRACECA project created in 1993. Over the past ten years, more than 50 technical assistance and investment projects have been implemented under the TRACECA program, in which 14 States participate, and private investment has exceeded $ 1 billion. In particular, over the past five years, $ 25 million has been invested in the development of the ports of Baku and Turkmenbashi, $ 70 million in Amirabad (Iran), and about $ 100 million in Aktau.

As a result, a significant part of the cargo traffic passing through the Caspian region already goes through TRACECA. However, difficulties in the implementation of the project are also present and the deadline for the corridor to reach full capacity has been pushed back to the 2020s. This project provides for the reconstruction of logistics between Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Geopolitical changes on the world map and the strengthening of the PRC as one of the main actors in international relations not only in the region, but also in the world, attracted the attention of European political and business circles to a new project put forward by the PRC in 2013 – Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

According to the Chinese side, the BRI concept should not be considered an integration structure, international or regional organization. This is an initiative of mutually beneficial cooperation and joint development of China and neighboring countries.

The main goal of the project is to redirect the flow of exports of goods and capital to those countries with which China has begun to develop cooperation in the last decade, primarily to countries in Africa and Central Asia and Western Europe. The project’s focus on solving China’s long-term Eurasian problems is clearly visible. After solving numerous political, organizational, financial and other issues, the communication basis of the project should be implemented in the current logistics.

According to the initiators of the project, the New Silk Road should include land and sea components. The land-based silk road, as it was a thousand years ago, will start in Xian (Shaanxi province), then pass through China to Lanzhou (Gansu province), Urumqi district, and cross Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Then, passing through the Bosphorus Strait, it will go to Moscow (Russia), continue to Rotterdam and end in Venice (Italy), where it will meet the sea component.

The Maritime Silk Road will start in Quanzhou (Fujiian province), pass through the major cities of southern China, Guangzhou (capital of Guangdong), Beihai (Guangxi) and Haikou (Hainan), reach the Strait of Malacca with a stop in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), cross the Indian ocean with calls in Kal-Kutta (India), Colombo (Sri Lanka) and the Maldives, and reach Nairobi in Kenya. Then it will pass through Djibouti, the Red sea and the Suez canal to Athens (Greece) and then to Venice (Italy), where it will connect with the land route.

Control over two Silk Road routes ensures China’s energy security and helps protect its investments in strategically important regions. In addition, the implementation of the project allows to reduce logistics costs. Thus, it is important for China to ensure the security of East, Central and South – East Asia, on which political and economic stability depends the well-being of a number of border regions of the PRC, as well as the stability of its trade.

The emergence of the Belt and Road Initiative has become the embodiment of a competition of development models that challenges the former role of the EU as a global model of regional integration. “Belt and road” partnerships of ASEAN with major international players (USA, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea), as well as the Trans – Pacific partnership are a set of new initiatives, “significantly different from classical integration schemes, which are formulated in the theory of international relations based on the experience of the EU, and “new regionalism” relying on non-state actors and transnational processes that occur “apart from” state” .

China’s ability to respond with interest to new plans for regional cooperation has become an advantage against the background of the EU’s wary attitude to the BRI, which has led to the involvement of the interests of Central Asian and Eastern European countries in the initiative. Thus, as a consequence of the involvement of the Eastern partnership countries in the Chinese investment zone of influence, the EU and China decided to combine their logistics routes.

Analyzing the Sino – European relations, it can be noted that the current relations between the EU and China are characterized by a comprehensive content of the bilateral agenda. In an effort to strengthen a common foreign policy line in relations with China, in 2015 The EU has developed a document“Elements of a new EU strategy towards China”. A new “Connecting Europe & Asia: The EU Strategy” was adopted in 2018, which specified the European policy towards Asian countries as part of the “connectivity” approach, providing a forum for coordinating EU and Chinese infrastructure investment relating to TEN-T and the BRI.

A key objective of the “Connectivity Platform” is to ensure that investment takes place within a framework of fair and undistorted competition based on regulatory convergence, while promoting cooperation in areas such as technology, engineering, construction and the development of standards.

An important initial area of work for the “Connectivity Platform” is the financing of investment on priority transport corridors. The Sino – EU summit 2016 in Riga (Latvia) provided further confirmation of an increasing focus on BRI – related projects and initiatives. At the closure of the summit, participants declared that they would make concerted efforts to develop synergies between the BRI and relevant EU initiatives such as the Trans – European Transport Network, more generally support the development of transport routes between Europe and Asia, and establish multimodal logistics centres throughout the area of the New Eurasian Land Bridge. They also committed to improving the international supply chain and border crossing rules on key transport corridors and the connection from the Port of Bar (Montenegro) to the railway network in Central and Eastern Europe.

Analysing the logistics along TEN-T, it should be mentioned that the EU has ports on the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea (including the Aegean, Adriatic, Tyrrhenian and Balearic Seas), North Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and Baltic Sea, providing a wide range of access points for shipping from outside the EU.

Also should be taking into the consideration the possible approaches to the EU by land and sea and the TEN-T core network corridors. Thus rail services between China and the EU currently operate mainly on the route through Russia, Belarus (where they transfer from the Russian, broad gauge (1,520mm) to the standard UIC gauge (1,435mm) at Brest) and Poland, using the North Sea – Baltic TEN-T Core Network Corridor (CNC) at least as far west as Warsaw. In the course of this research, various rail routes from the Far East to the EU were assessed to determine the most likely ones for carrying rail freight in the future. To that end, the attractiveness of the time of the shipment was considered. Based on the above assumption, it was found that, with shipping times to the North Sea up to one week longer than to the Mediterranean Sea, rail would be most attractive for transport to Europe north of the Alps, including to EU Member States bordering the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Containers carried by rail, therefore, would primarily be those previously shipped to North Sea ports, and would travel along the route from Moscow (Russia) through Brest (Belarus) and Warsaw (Poland) to Berlin (Germany). Containers carried by sea would first pass or call at ports in Southeast Europe, such as Athens/Piraeus in Greece, where they could in principle be transferred to rail for travel further north. However, most freight of sufficiently high value to justify the additional costs of rail across the Balkans would already have switched to overland rail travel across Asia. It would therefore be more cost-effective for the remaining containers at Athens/Piraeus to continue by sea to ports in the north Adriatic Sea, such as Venice and Trieste in Italy, Koper in Slovenia and Rijeka in Croatia.

Assuming that sufficient end – to – end capacity is available between China and the EU, the focus of future rail freight flows, including those attributed to the BRI, is likely to be the North Sea – Baltic TEN-T CNC from Brest to Warsaw(Poland).

Some freight trains through or around Warsaw (Poland) currently continue to Berlin and Duisburg in Germany, but, by 2040, services may diverge to a range of destinations: south via Katowice in Poland to Hungary and Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and onwards to southern Germany, Switzerland and France; southwest via Łódź and Wrocław in Poland to Germany; west, as at present, via Poznań (Poland) to Germany, and onwards to the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and via Hamburg to Denmark and Sweden; and northeast along Rail Baltica to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonian and Finland.

The routes to the west and to the northeast form part of the North Sea – Baltic Core Network Corridor of the TEN-T, which extends from Warsaw west to Berlin, Amsterdam and Rotterdam and north to Tallinn and Helsinki. The North Sea – Baltic Core Network Corridor Study includes estimates of rail freight tonnage crossing the border between Belarus and Poland in 2025. While it is difficult to compare estimates of tonnages and TEUs, the estimates in the Corridor Study appear to be small compared with the potential volume of BRI – related traffic by 2040.

Despite wide range of synegration of TEN-T and BRI, the analysis showed, that the geographical and project scope of the BRI are not clearly defined and that they continue to evolve.

The analysis of potential future traffic flows in this study suggests that the first study should focus on the New Eurasian Land Bridge Corridor connecting with the North Sea – Baltic Core Network Corridor of the TEN-T. This would require dialogue with other organisations already engaged in the development of rail transport routes in Eurasia, in particular CAREC. It would also require engagement with organisations such as UNIFE, representing manufacturers of rail equipment, with an interest in the promotion and application of EU standards beyond its borders.

The analysis of BRI – related traffic flows in the EU suggested that the BRI could generate additional rail freight of approximately 3 million TEU (equivalent to 50 – 60 trains per day or 2 – 3 trains per hour each way) between the Far East and the EU by 2040. Subsequently, it was concluded that the most likely TEN-T corridor to be required to accommodate this traffic would be the North Sea – Baltic Core Network Corridor.

It is not expected that the BRI changes patterns of shipping traffic materially other than to reduce slightly the volume of freight entering the EU via the North Sea Ports. Any effect might be offset by a growth in the shipment of BRI – generated freight across the North Sea to the UK. Nevertheless, it should be noted that maritime trade between China and the EU is already well-established, and that it is not possible to forecast possible changes in related trade patterns as a result of the BRI.

Given these results, and taking account of the uncertainties surrounding the definition and evolution of the BRI, recommendations to address particular constraints or bottlenecks on TEN-T beyond those already highlighted by the corridor studies would be premature. In the absence of greater clarity on the scope and priorities of the BRI, there is a risk that the development of specific investment projects designed to accommodate more traffic on the North Sea – Baltic Core Network Corridor, for example, would prove either inadequate or redundant.

It is also worth noting the issue of stabilization of subsidies for infrastructure and logistics projects of the PRC through the EU – Asia line.

At the same time, the TEN-T Corridor Studies should be reviewed and developed periodically as the work of the “Connectivity Platform” progresses and the BRI is defined more clearly. This would require TEN-T policy to become more outward-looking, with an explicit requirement to take account of major policy initiatives sponsored by countries outside the EU. It could also be facilitated by the development of periodic forecasts of BRI – related traffic, following the model of the European Commission’s Reference Scenario, with forecasts developed under the framework of the “Connectivity Platform” and jointly approved by participating countries.

Despite the presence of problem areas in the development of logistics ties between the EU and China, partners (especially the EU) note that the development of the logistics is greatly influenced by the geopolitical considerations of countries, in particular the desire to strengthen their foreign policy influence through modern infrastructure, reduce the geopolitical risks of entering major markets, and diversify options for communication with world markets. In other words, the dynamics of the developing of the EU – China logistics is a reflection of technological progress in transportation, the progress of globalization and regionalization of the world economy, geopolitical and geo-economic interests of participating countries in the development of international communications.

It should be understood that one of the key advantages of continental cooperation in the Eurasian space is the possibility of developing transport potential and related infrastructure. Work in this direction will lead to a number of positive effects, the main of which are the use of the transit potential of countries, localization of industry along the Trans – Eurasian transport corridors, export development and increased connectivity of inland States and regions.

Constructive interaction between the EU and China on the development of logistics routes in Eurasia shows that participation in the Eurasian cooperation can help the participants of the initiative “consolidate the strategic rear”, provide a basis for the rise of countries and influence the restructuring of the world structure, become a useful platform for global governance and international policy building.

PhD in International Politics, Central China Normal University, Wuhan, the P.R.of China Research Associate , Ukrainian Association of Sinologists

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Belt and Road in Central and East Europe: Roads of opportunities

Maria Smotrytska

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The second decade of the 21st century put the geoeconomic emphasis and cooperation within the framework of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative into the China – East European states relations.

The Chinese initiative is dictated by the understanding of the importance of the CEE countries as an important component of a unified Europe. Thus, asserting itself in the role of one of the centers of a multipolar world order, Beijing began transforming the economic and political space that developed in CEE with the promotion of favorable economic proposals to the countries of the region, without raising questions of the difference of ideologies and ways of life.

For the first time, a joint project was announced in 2012 in Warsaw, where Premier Wen Jiabao launched an initiative called “12 measures” of China to encourage friendly cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Starting in 2013, the main content of the programs of each 16 + 1 summit is the development of tools for this regional format. Naturally, the format of China’s cooperation with the CEE countries is closely connected with the implementation of the global concept of the “New Silk Road” proposed by the Chairman of the PRC Xi Jinping. The concept consists of two parts: the land “Economic belt of the Silk Road” and the “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century” and potentially involves cooperation of at least 60 countries in Europe and Asia.

By 2015, China has become one of the largest investors in Eastern and South – Eastern Europe. In November 2015, the Eastern Europe-China ( 16 + 1 ) summit was held in the Chinese city of Suzhou, in which the leaders of the PRC and 16 Eastern European member states and the Balkan countries took part. The meeting resulted in the strengthening of China’s economic presence in Eastern Europe. Also at the trade and economic forum in Hangzhou between China and the countries of CEE in 2015 it was agreed that China is ready to provide financial support for the re-industrialization of the countries of CEE, in the case that it will be conducted using Chinese technologies and equipment.

In 2015 – 2016, taking into account the opportunities and potentials, each country in the 16 + 1 format chose its own direction. For example, Bulgaria will supervise agriculture, Poland– investment and trade. The task of Latvia will be identification of links and projects, cooperation in the field of logistics, Romania will deal with energy projects, Lithuania is responsible for educational programs, and Hungary for the tourism sector.

The 16 + 1 format , in a certain sense, prepared the transition to a more focused and integrated strategy “One belt – One Road” and successfully “fits” into its main components – the projects “Economic belt of the Silk Road” and “Marine Silk Road of the XXI century”, aimed at developing new land and sea transport, logistics and trade and production systems linking China to Europe. In the first project, the countries of CEE play a key role, in the second – an important transit role in the development of “China – Europe” trade and investment ties, and in the long term – in the formation of a broad Eurasian “economic space” and “political stability belt”.

The basic design of the first project is the development on a new technological and organizational basis of the traditional direction of trade and transport “Sino – European” ties, complemented by their investment cooperation. This Northern road includes land international transit to Western Europe from China and other countries of the Asia – Pacific region (primarily, South Korea and Japan) through Russia and Kazakhstan along the Trans – Siberian Railway and the Kazakhstan railway with access to the European part of Russia in The Urals:

  • Chengdu ( Sichuan province ) – Dostyk – Moscow – Brest – Lodz ( Poland )
  • Suzhou ( Jiangsu province, Shanghai region ) – Warsaw ( Poland )
  • Chongqing ( Sichuan region ) – Duisburg ( Germany )
  • Zhengzhou ( Henan, North China ) – Hamburg ( Germany )
  • Wuhan ( Hubei province, Yangtze belt region ) – Pardubice ( Czech Republic )
  • Wuhan – Zabaikalsk – Hamburg
  • Shenyang ( Liaoning, Northeast China ) – Hamburg
  • Yiwu ( Zhejiang, Shanghai region ) – Madrid ( Spain )

Nevertheless, the transit and logistical potential of the other CEE countries is still used slightly. Almost not involved in the “European part” of the Northern road are the ports of Poland and the Baltic countries that gravitate towards it. On the contrary, the main transport and logistics centers for Chinese goods (primarily German Duisburg and Hamburg) are already overloaded, and the possibilities for expanding their capacities are limited.

Such uneven distribution of cargo flows combined with insufficient technological level of the transport and logistics infrastructure of the CEE countries hinders the further development of China – Europe ties. There are also serious organizational and economic limitations of this development. Most of the provinces ( especially the western ones, remote from the sea ) tend to establish regular communication with Europe for both economic and prestigious reasons. The export potential of only the western provinces of China is estimated at $ 40 billion. Therefore, the full utilization of trains and partial financing of transportation costs are provided by local authorities on the basis of public – private partnerships (especially since many Chinese companies retain great state involvement) (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1.:China`s infrastucture investments in the 16 + 1

Source: CSIS; FT Research

The April 9th CEE– PRC summit 2019 in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik marked a new beginning in the development of relations between China and Eastern Europe. Although the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) usually focuses on Asian (whether Central Asian, South Asian, or South– East Asian) or African participants, post-Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe have begun to play not less significant role. In fact, the CEE region was one of the most represented regions in the 2017– 2019 BRI Forums: of the 28 heads of state or government, four were from this region (representing the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Serbia), and Romania was represented by a delegation led by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister. This list of forum participants reflected the intensive development of cooperation between China and CEE under the auspices of the BRI.

Humanitarian influence is also increasing – the leadership of the PRC encourages interpersonal contacts with the CEE countries, especially through tourism, student and youth exchanges, etc. China’s credibility in the region is also growing, because now almost any project of cooperation on a bi – versatile basis is served under the brand “One Belt – One Road”, which allows China to demonstrate real ( albeit small ) successes literally every year. This is especially noticeable against the backdrop of crisis phenomena in the European Union and the weakening of the ties between the CEE region and Russia.

Underlining the main opportunities of BRI for CEE and EU, should be mentioned the following :

  1. Chinese public and private sector bodies were willing to take construction risk, and to act quickly. It was suggested that this could be a major opportunity when embarking on major construction projects. However, the experience of COVEC (the construction of a 49-kilometre Polish section of the motorway from Warsaw to Łódź. The construction contract was awarded to a consortium – formed by China Overseas Engineering Group – is a subsidiary of China Railway Engineering Corp (Hereinafter CREC – Auth.)) as a contractor in Poland shows that Chinese companies have not always been able to work well in the EU.
  2. One interviewee suggested that Chinese investment in rail infrastructure was leading to rail being a viable alternative to both sea and air for trade between the Far East and Europe.The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Hereinafter EBRD – Auth.) expressed the opinion that “the rail mode has a huge potential” but did not provide specific forecasts of what goods would transfer to rail, or over what timescale, or what routes they would use.

Other interviewees considered that rail services would attract demand mainly from shipping rather than from air. One of them, responsible for air cargo services, argued that rail would not abstract demand from air because it could not offer the very short transit times required by the most time-sensitive air cargoes. This interviewee also suggested that, to remain competitive, China and other parts of Asia with rail services introduced as a result of the BRI would still need air freight connections to Europe. In this context, ownership of the capacity of a cargo airline such as Cargolux can be seen as a key element of the infrastructure connecting China and the EU.

A representative of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (Hereinafter CER– Auth.) agreed that rail would attract demand from shipping but would not be able to compete with air services. The European Commission also suggested that, from China’s perspective, the maritime elements of the BRI were more important and that overland rail was a distraction. In their view, 90-95% of traffic between China and the EU was maritime and would remain so. This is broadly consistent with the analysis of maritime and air traffic. It should also be stressed that the most common investments by Chinese parties in the EU appear to be ports, principally in the Mediterranean and the United Kingdom.

Russian Railways (Hereinafter RZD– Auth.) has long operated rail services along the Trans – Siberian Railway between Europe and the Sea of Japan. These could, in principle, be used to carry goods from Japan and South Korea to Europe, but these would first have to be shipped across the Sea of Japan to Russia. In contrast, from landlocked north east China, long overland journeys are needed to reach any port, but may also be needed to reach a suitable railhead.

Thus, the commercial objective of growing rail services appears not to be to put pressure on maritime operators, which are already efficient, but to offer a higher speed service. This also helps producers and consumers along the rail routes used.

  • In principle, commercially viable rail services between China and the EU are a major opportunity for operators, shippers and industry.

One interviewee in the logistics sector said that subsidies granted by the Chinese Government to rail services between China and the EU are “tremendous”. They also stated that Kazakhstan Railways (Hereinafter KTZ – Auth.) had reduced tariffs in 2012 but now agreed with RZD to keep tariffs high. KTZ indicated that the Chinese Government provided subsidies to support westbound container traffic, but envisaged that these would be withdrawn by 2020 as balancing eastbound traffic was attracted to the route. These comments illustrate a number of issues relating to the commercial viability of the services.Also trains between China and the EU will be charged transit tariffs by operators such as KTZ and RZD. There is no uniquely correct basis for setting such transit tariffs, although  the principal applied in the EU is that they should be based on marginal costs. From the perspective of these transit railways, however, transit traffic is an opportunity to profit from third parties (A similar issue emerges in the provision of air navigation services within the EU, where national air navigation service providers (Hereinafter ANSPs – Auth.) may have incentives to overcharge for en-route services provided to overflying, and typically foreign, aircraft to subsidise terminal services provided to aircraft taking off and landing). The incentives on the transit states are typically to maximise their profits, rather than to maximise the economic, social and environmental value of the railway operation as a whole. For both the EU and China, however, there is the potential risk that a growing and successful rail service will be seen as a potential source of profit by the transit railways.

  • Another opportunity is the rebalancing of freight flows.

Figure2 and Figure 3below summarise the volumes of loaded containers which are loaded and discharged on flows between ports in the Far East and ports in the EU, measured in TEU. However, the EU Member States in which containers are loaded and discharged may not be the final destination states(The country where custom controls are executed is the country of discharge. This is the reason why Czech Republic is included in Figure 5 below despite it has not access to the sea.)

Figure2 below illustrates the recent growth in loaded containers from the Far East to EU ports, from just over TEU one million in 1996 to about TEU eleven million in 2016. Other than China, no state loads more than one million containers to Europe.

Figure2.:Loaded containers from the Far East to Europe: country of loading

Source: MDST World Cargo Database

Figure 3shows the points at which loaded containers are discharged in the EU. A large proportion are discharged at ports in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, before travelling onwards to the points at which they are stripped. Containers discharged in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, or Genoa (Genova) or Trieste in Italy, for example, may continue by river barge, train or truck to other EU Member States or to landlocked and non-EU Switzerland.

Figure 3.: Loaded containers from the Far East to Europe: country of discharge

Source: MDST World Cargo Database

Thus, the analysis of Figures 2 and 3 and 4show that westbound loaded container flows of 11 million TEU exceed the eastbound flows of 5 million TEU. This creates a need fora large number of containers to be returned empty in the eastbound direction. A representative of the CER said that this represented an opportunity for the EU to rebalance imports and exports.

Of the Member States shown, the largest imbalance in flows is for the United Kingdom, which exports only just over one quarter as many loaded TEUs as it imports. Even in Germany and Sweden, exports are less than two thirds of imports. This appears to confirm CER’s view that additional containers could be carried eastbound, in principle at little additional cost.

Figure 4.: Balance in loaded container flows for selected EU Member States

Source : MDST World Cargo Database

  1. Among other opportunities there should be metioned improved customs coordination. Thus, one interviewee saw opportunities to use through rail services between China and the EU to improve and streamline customs arrangements. However, they did not suggest either that specific initiatives were required or how these should be organised. As already discussed, a number of the MoUs supporting the BRI relate to the development of improved customs arrangements with a view to enhancing connectivity.
  2. Opportunity: EU companies working in CAREC states. The EBRD suggested that there were good opportunities for companies from the EU to build railways, roads and other transport infrastructure in the CAREC[1] states. They argued  that, in addition to construction, there would be opportunities in the areas of harmonisation of regulation, information technology systems, developing reliable and sustainable energy supplies, and logistics.
  3. Opportunity: complementary skills in the EU and China. Thus, one interviewee said that the EU had greater skills in regional issues and planning than Chinese bodies, and that there were opportunities for each country’s skills to complement each other. At first sight, it appears likely that each party may benefit from the other’s knowledge of local legislation, planning and procedures.

Table 1 below summarises a number of the opportunities and challenges which appear to emerge from the BRI. None of these may amount to a clearly-defined “problem”, as outlined in the EC’s Better Regulation Toolbox. Nonetheless, this section briefly discusses the extent to which it might be relevant to consider legislation to address them.

Table 1.: Opportunities, challenges, and the need for legislation

Opportunity or challengeIssue(s)
Chinese investors may not always meet EU standardsProcurement and enforcement
China may subsidise products and transport
Scope for improved customs coordination  Multilateral coordination
EU standards must be maintained and harmonised
Wasted and misdirected investment  Transparency and coordination
Chinese parties may take over existing projects
Chinese dominance of rail transportChinese may limit transit traffic
China may focus its trade elsewhere
Changes in relative advantage within the EURegional and cohesion policies
New investment in transit countriesCoordination between EU and Asian railways
Making Asia’s infrastructure meet EU needs
Bottlenecks may emerge on rail and on TEN-TConsider EU and Far East flows

Source: Steer Davies Gleave analysis

Thus, it can be noted that the participating countries of 16 + 1 mechanism understood the scale, prospects and synergies of this interaction. It should be emphasized that the “Old” EU countries are wary of Chinese activity in the Central European zone of their influence and insist that all members ( and candidate members ) coordinate  their cooperation with China, and that the EU should speak with the PRC “with one voice”. Nevertheless the strategic concepts of the development of these states reflect the importance and priority of both bilateral relations with China and cooperation in the China – EU format. That is why most of the foreign policy strategies of the CEE states are oriented toward expanding foreign economic activity and trade with the PRC. It is necessary to emphasize the consistency and planning of work in this direction, conducted by the states of the 16 + 1 format. As we can see, pragmatic economic diplomacy started to prevail in the newest foreign policy history of Europe.

The ninth summit of cooperation between China and CEE, based on the results, was the last for the 16 + 1 format. In April 2019, it became clear that Greece would be invited to be part of this initiative. This actually turns 16 + 1 into 17 + 1. This move confirms claims that the importance of the CEE countries to China is closely linked to COSCO’s acquisition of a controlling stake in the Greek port of Piraeus. With this strategy, Beijing is partly paving the way for a resolution of the dispute between Greece and Macedonia, aiming to connect the port of Piraeus via Macedonia to the proposed high-speed rail link between Belgrade and Budapest, and then direct it to the Western part of the continent.

The appearance of 17 + 1 has a direct bearing on the cooperation between China and CEE. Greece’s accession is likely to weaken some regional aspects of cooperation between partners and re-emphasize the bilateral nature of China’s relations with individual countries. This is a strategic step that will bear fruit for both Beijing and the CEE capitals, and will also aim to allay EU fears that China is trying to split the continent.

The potential development of the 17 + 1 initiative demonstrates that China has already become a full-fledged “European power”. The growing number of Chinese investments and relations on the continent suggests a much broader and more complex “deepening” into European Affairs than expected by Beijing or any European capital. This reality requires China to own its position as a “European power”. At the same time, Europe needs to engage in a mature and meaningful debate about the growing influence of China’s power, which goes beyond simplistic divisions between friend / foe, rival / ally, and so on. As the evolution of cooperation between China and CEE shows, that we live in a complex world and interlocutors can simultaneously perform several contradictory roles. Due to the BRI initiative, Europe has realized that it is impossible to sacrifice China, and ignoring the fact that this country has become the “new power of the European continent” can cause significant damage to the Union, primarily economic.


[1] The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (Hereinafter CAREC – Auth.) Program is a partnership of 11 countries  (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and 6 multilateral development partners (Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, UnitedNations Development Programme, and World Bank) working to promote development through cooperation, accelerate economic growth, and reduce poverty. ADB serves as the Secretariat .

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Amirabad Port: The game changer in Indian foreign trade

Vahid Pourtajrishi

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Authors: Vahid Pourtajrishi & Mahdi Torabi

Seaports have played undeniable role in international and even local trade environment. To demonstrate this claim, we can refer the remained paintings from stone age which show how sea ports help man to feed from sea.

But along the many centuries this significance got more blurred. Specially after the industrial revolution, nobody can reject this significance in international trade. To understand the depth of this issue, just take a look at the condition of commerce and military power of Great Britain after 19th century.

Iran is one of the great geopolitical focal points of the world which connects Europe to Asia and Central Asian states to South of the old continent. In fact, Iran is the most important way for Russia and the Central Asian states to achieve the warm waters of the Persian Gulf and as the result, the main way for entering the free waters. This linkage is created blessing existence of various sea ports in south and north of Iran.

After fostering the idea of International North – South Corridor (INSC), development of the Iranian sea ports got more important. Also, Iran is working hardly on development of Chabahar Port in its South Eastern part of this country that is specially designated to carry the Indian cargos to the North.

 Amirabad Port, the game changer for India

After serious focus on INSC by its participants since at least 10 years back, Iran also established Amirabad Port located in Mazandaran Province enhanced with up to date facilities, cranes and even Ro-Ro mode of rail. The train stops exactly at the seashore and this ability reduces the cost of multi modal transportation highly. This port could accept the various type of cargos from container to bulk. The ability of oil and agricultural products transportation is another option of this port which could be very attractive for those Chinese companies who take their cargos from Kazakhstan to West of this country.

As we know, China has focused heavily on BRI route as one of the determinant elements in Beijing national policy and foreign trade. This corridor starts from West of China and ends to Europe passing Kazakhstan in East of Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey (BTK Corridor) in West of this sea. So, we can assume that Caspian Sea is fully surrounded by the Chinese goods while India as the main competitor of China is fully absent in this region.

As India has focused on Chabahar Port construction project, the rail linkage between Chabahar and Amirabad could directly connect Indian goods to the South of Caspian Sea and this issue could to realize the old dream of Indian merchants to access central Asia and Russia market easily with the lowest cost. So, the Indian merchants could start a real challenge with their Chinese competitor in the region by meaningful reduction of transportation costs while the current access route which is mainly from East of Russia is very costly coz of the very ling distance between East and West of Russia and as the result, the total price is such high which could not be competitable  with the Chinese goods price!

But unfortunately, the weak foreign policy of Narendra Modi’s government and his extremely conservative approaches regarding Iran following US sanctions has stopped the work in Chabahar Port. While the Iranian government still welcomes India to invest and construct the second phase of this port, but after withdrawal of India from this project, Iran has fulfilled the required fund to construct this unfinished project from its own national budget.

in the other hand, the controversial 25 years strategic deal between Tehran and Beijing has increased the danger of entering China to Chabahar Port project higher than past. If this issue happens, nobody recognizes it as the Indian government fault but this is the Indian nation who will lose the golden opportunity of leasing Chabahar Port forever.

At the same time, we have to point to this fact that Chabahar is the last chance for India to invest in a modernized Iranian port in order to access the vast market of Central Asia and Russia. It seems while the pressure of US sanctions against Iran is increasing, China is the only country who benefits this condition and is strengthening its political and commercial ties with Tehran everyday and in near future, there will be no chance for India remained to invest in Iran as the artery and gate of entrance to Central Asia and Russia.

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Economy

Pandemic Recovery: Upskilling Government Saves Nations

Naseem Javed

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Urgently needed are “scientific-based-econo-political-thinking” with proven pragmatic capabilities to execute, because embossed degrees, old-fashioned election expertise with “political-science” studies now appear Machiavellian rhetoric. What works on the election podium is often useless will applied towards pandemic recovery. Nation-by-nation, during pandemic recovery, uplifting midsize business economy is now a number one challenge. Nation-by-nation the absence of hardcore expertise in Public Sector is adding to global crisis. In certain regions, the commonalities of calamities may create a domino fall. For the first time during the last century, the ‘commonalities of calamities’ now shared by the populace of the world. Now, this creates a rare opportunity to demonstrate national and continent wide tactical deployments towards recovery, collaborate by saving the prolonged agonies of humankind. Billion displaced, billion to starve and hundreds of millions in serious quandary. This is far more intricate what any Tik-Tok upgrades and Teleprompter shows can handle.

Understanding ground realities: Those who recently attended many dozens of national or global zoom events on government programs and ideas on economic survival often witnessed serious lack of contents, expertise or experiences, most importantly inability of most presenters to debate or question existing broken down systems. Observe the 75th United Nation meetings, outside very few countries, most nations are only reading the laundry list of the problems without any specific solutions.  It is also true, all are waiting for vaccines and this moves the date of ‘global normalcy’ to 2025. As economies start to crumble, seen as almost a national emergency by dozens of the 200 nations, the lack of special skills-sets and high-speed performance labeled a new crisis.  A quick test of any top frontline leadership on any 10-government agencies, in any nation mandated to foster economic growth will provide the real picture to this challenge. Upskilling is about expected performance levels and for smart nations to adapt, survive and save nations now mandated nation-by-nation by pandemic recovery. There is no escape. Ask Augustus Caesar.

Understanding Simultaneous Synchronization: The art and science of upskilling frontline government teams to tackle pandemic recovery and economic survivals are normal progressions, but only once deployed with an agenda. Furthermore, to resuscitate fatally wounded economies special global age skills mobilized, like creating digital platform economies where entrepreneurialism dances, creating upskilling and innovative excellence mobilization in simultaneous synchronizations, where exports fly, creating a vibrant globally attractive economy where investments rain. Such upskilling of Public Sectors deployments are often not new funding dependent but rather execution hungry and mobilization starved.  Study Expothon Strategy on Google for models.

The Facts: The world can easily absorb unlimited exportable ideas in unlimited vertical markets. Fact: The well-designed innovative ideas are worthy of such quadrupled volumes. Fact: The entrepreneurial and dormant talents of a nation are capable of such tasks. Fact: The new global age skills, knowledge and execution are now the missing links. Fact: fear of change is a false state of mind now corrected with upskilling mobilization.

The Warnings: The Shape of Pandemic Recovery is W: Depending on country, recovery spanning a year, a decade or even longer. Speed will save economies and avoid restless citizenry magnetized by populism. Study the specificity of your own regions and nations, identify voids on small medium business economy sectors and open debates. Follow the trail of silence and it may lead you to hidden conclaves and robed bureaucracies all afraid to change. Upskilling is a bright light in those dark tunnels.  Discover the art of transformation and power on enlightenment. Start with high-level zoomerang events and encourage dialogue.  

Understanding Upskilling of Public Sector: Across any single nation, Public Sector upskilling models work in simultaneous synchronization and can manage from 1000 to 100,000 participants.  How local grassroots manufacturing uplifts small medium enterprises for sharper productivity and exportability?  How foreign investments turn around economic performances. How ‘soft-power-asset-management’ the art of imagining things over ‘hard-asset-centricity’ where staying deeply stuck to old routines on old factory floors rewarded. This is when forbidden are the bicycle makers to dream of ‘drones’ or flying cars. Some 500 millions small and large plants and businesses around the world are badly stuck in old groves of decades old mentality, unable to transform, optimize to grow to new heights with new global age thinking and execution. Imagine all that wasted potential, talent and machinery, infrastructure under the dead weight of old concepts still logged into hard-assets based mentality. Pandemic recovery shows no mercy, therefore, understanding of the core proposition of any entrepreneurial venture is “extreme-value-creation” as a prime objective. Running wild on “extreme value manipulations” only creates hologramic economies and ponzy schemes. Quick study of any major financial publication will eliminate the need of any further proof.  

The world just changed, the pandemic recovery will change the world repeatedly and do it very quickly. Upskilling at all levels of frontline economic development teams anywhere around a world critically missing link. What is needed are bold and open discussions with diversity and tolerance and national goals to turn around the economy; explore national mobilization of entrepreneurialism as new thinking, explore master upskilling agenda as savior towards stability and superior performances to stand up to new challenges.

If you like, share this with right parties and join our thought leadership. The rest is easy. 

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