Both Georgia and Belarus have signed bilateral international road transport agreements with China, in a move which will allow trucks to pass more easily between the countries and ultimately boost trade cooperation.
The agreements were forged separately at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held on 25–27 April in Beijing. Attended by world leaders, trade organisations and companies from around the world, the summit explored how China can develop trade links with the rest of the world over land and sea in the coming years, with a particular focus on forging the ‘new silk road’.
Belarus and Georgia are both important transit nations along road transport routes between China and the European Union through its northern and southern corridors respectively. The agreements now signed will be mutually beneficial, not only allowing Belarusian and Georgian transport operators to enter China but Chinese transport operators to enter Belarus and Georgia, as well as transit through their territories.
China ratified the UN TIR Convention in July 2016, which became fully operational in the country in May last year. The connection of China and Europe through TIR is seeing the opening of a ‘fourth logistics channel’, boosting trade between the two regions and providing competition to sea, air and rail routes.
With a clear opportunity for a greater share of global trade to travel by road, these bilateral agreements represent a welcome development of overland global trade routes. Now, transport operators in both Belarus and Georgia will benefit from more competitive pricing and will be able to better choose transport routes according to market needs.
According to industry estimates, transport by road is between five and ten times cheaper than by air, and road transport from China to Europe via TIR could cut delivery time by at least ten days compared with rail.