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Tbilisi’s Belt and Road Forum Strengthens Ties between Asia and Europe

By Khatia Kardava and Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, November 29
Georgia’s capital Tbilisi is hosting a two-day international economic forum this week.

Tbilisi Belt and Road Forum is the second forum in Tbilisi, where over 2000 delegates from more than 60 countries are taking part. Among them are the top officials of 34 countries and more than 500 foreign companies.

The two-day forum is held under the patronage of Prime Minister of Georgia and organized by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and Foreign Affairs on November 28-29.

The Tbilisi Silk Road Forum is an important opportunity to deepen economic, political and cultural ties between Asia and Europe. The forum aims to create and establish a discussion platform where Silk Road initiative countries, international organizations and private sector will discuss issues of international and regional trade,” reads the statement of the Ministry of Economy.

According to Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, high interest toward the forum shows that the "New Silk Road Initiative" is getting the strategic importance not only for the states participating in the forum, but also for all who are interested in trade and infrastructure development, increasing access to digital technology and strengthening relations between the people.

The PM explained that the revival of the Great Silk Road, under the Belt and Road initiative, proposed by the President of the People's Republic of China, rests upon five fundamental principles: peace, prosperity, openness, innovation, and exchange of civilizations.

Kvirikashvili underlined that being located at a vital crossroads, Georgia links the economies and cultures of the East and West.

“Georgia has managed to create unique conditions for doing business. We have very limited bureaucracy ... Also, we are doing everything to improve the quality of governance and have better environment for the development our local business," he added.

The biennial event provides a platform for discussion on issues related to trade facilitation in the region, opportunities of e-commerce and digital connectivity, transport infrastructure and energy sector.

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze, there is an intensified interest in the event as the number of participant countries has doubled in comparison with the previous forum.

"This underscores the growing role of Georgia in the region as a transport, trade, logistic hub. Georgia promotes development of global projects," said Janelidze.

The regional potential will remain focused on issues relating to: (a) regional opportunities and harmonization challenges; (b) efficiency and costs for customs administration and other trade facilitation measures; (c) improved transport connectivity and quality of transport infrastructure; (d) availability and quality of information and communication technologies; (e) opportunities for investment and public-private partnerships. Defining existing obstacles to co-operation in these areas and ways of overcoming them through dialogue, research, initiatives and mutual projects would be the essential outcome of the Forum.

Within the Silk Road Forum, following panels covering a wide spectrum are held:
- Trade Facilitation
- E-commerce
- Transport Infrastructure
- Energy - Transregional Opportunities (Oil, Gas and Electricity)
- Digital Connectivity
- Capture the Investment Opportunities
- Investing and trading Opportunities in Georgia
- Regional Frontier for Global Investments
- Sustainable Development

Within the framework of Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, several important documents will be signed: A Memorandum between the Anaklia Development Consortium and Baku Sea Port; a Memorandum of Cooperation between Georgia and the People's Republic of China on Development of Economic Zones and Entrepreneurial Capacity Support and a Memorandum between Georgian Industrial Group and the Partnership Fund on participation of Chinese company See Power in the Gardabani 300 mw plant project.

Commenting on a free trade agreement with China, Georgian Minister of Economy Dimitri Kumsishvili said: “The agreement envisages relocation of industrial powers to Georgia in order to maximally use Georgia’s strategic location - a regional hub, connecting Europe and Asia.”

Tbilisi’s Silk Road Forum was founded in 2015. At that time, official delegations from 34 countries and business representatives of 50 countries participated in the event.

Due to the importance and magnitude of the event, the Forum is scheduled to take place once in every two years.