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Georgia eyes gains in China's Belt and Road initiative

Tbilisi hosts forum on Xi Jinping's development strategy, seeking to secure transit hub role between Europe and Asia.

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been discussed by more than 1,000 delegates from about 50 countries in Georgia's capital Tbilisi, as the former Soviet state aims to become a transit hub of trade between China and Europe.

A memorandum on the construction of a free economic zone was signed on Tuesday by Georgian and Chinese economic ministers, among other deals made at the two-day Belt and Road Forum hosted by Tbilisi.

The BRI, also known as the One Belt, One Road Initiative (OBOR), is a development strategy proposed by China's leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries.

The strategy underlines China's push to take a larger role in global affairs, with a China-centred trading network.

"Georgia's government will not spare efforts - in close partnership with its international partners - to give a new push within the framework of the Silk Road for diversification of transport routes and increasing their efficiency, as well as implementation of projects that will strengthen the economic and civilizational ties between Europe and Asia," said Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia's prime minister.

A new rail link between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan that came into operation on Tuesday should significantly shorten the time of shipments between China and Europe.

Georgia hopes to also add a marine transit route to the new Silk Road, with the Chinese-funded construction of a new deep sea port on the Black Sea, in Anaklia.

Series of deals

Georgia has a free-trade agreement with the European Union, and a similar deal signed earlier this year with China is expected to come into force on January 1, 2018.

In June this year, the two countries also inked another deal that said China would give Georgia about $9.1m worth of grants for improving medical infrastructure.

Georgia is also expected to see a Chinese bank with a $1bn capital open in the country, according to another agreement signed this year.

China has been investing heavily in the EU's eastern bloc.

The Chinese-funded railway line reconstruction between Hungary and Serbia was inaugurated on the outskirts of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Tuesday.

A day earlier, Hungary hosted the "16+1" summit between China and 16 eastern European countries.


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