On November 28–29, Georgia hosted 2,000 guests, including high government officials, diplomats, businesspersons and representatives of multinational organizations, from approximately 50 countries at the Belt and Road Forum in Tbilisi. The Belt and Road Forum is a biennial event, which provides a platform for discussions concerning a wide array of issues related to trade facilitation in the region and beyond. The Forum is a joint effort of the Georgian and Chinese governments, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili opened the forum and addressed the guests,“Georgia’s government will not spare any efforts — in close collaboration with its international partners — to give a new push within the framework of the Silk Road for diversification of transport routes, as well as the implementation of projects that will strengthen the economic and civilizational ties between Europe and Asia,”said Prime Minister Kvirikashvili.
This biennial forum served as an addition to the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum held in 2015 underscores the Georgian government’s commitment to strengthening partnerships with international actors to attract investment to the country. Today, Georgia has a free-trade agreement with the European Union, most of CIS member states and a similar deal was signed earlier this year with China is coming into force on January 1, 2018.
The Belt and Road Forum offered Business-to-Business frameworks for companies interested in identifying new opportunities and developing projects with the other participants. Discussion topics included benefits and challenges facing the Belt and Road project, to include the regional opportunities and harmonization challenges; efficiency and costs for customs administration and other trade facilitation measures; improved transport connectivity and quality of transport infrastructure; availability and quality of information and communication technologies; opportunities for investment and public-private partnerships. Defining existing obstacles for cooperation and ways of overcoming these difficulties through dialogue, research, initiatives and mutual projects is the next step in shaping the long-term success of this biennial dialogue.
A series of agreements were signed on the sideline of the forum, including a memorandum of understanding on developing economic zones and entrepreneurial capacity between China and Georgia.
Additionally, the forum highlighted the new developments in Georgia: A new railway link between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan came into operation on November 28th, which will dramatically shorten the time of shipments between China and Europe. Plans are underway to add a marine transit component to the new Silk Road includes a deep sea port project on the Black Sea shores in Anaklia, Georgia, which will serve as another gateway for the Eurasian transport corridor.