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Georgia eyes new port to expedite Eurasian shipping

Updated: 2015-09-15 08:21
By Li Xiaokun and Wang Qingyun (China Daily)

Prime minister says nation to launch free trade talks with China

Georgia wants to construct a port to cut shipping time from China to Europe in half, and the nation will begin free trade negotiations with China soon, the country's prime minister said.

Irakli Garibashvili made the remarks in an exclusive interview with China Daily over the weekend. The Georgian prime minister was in China to attend last week's Summer Davos meeting in Dalian, where he met with Premier Li Keqiang.

"The most important thing is that, together with Premier Li Keqiang, we agreed to start negotiations on a free trade agreement with China. We have done a feasibility study together," Garibashvili said.

"Of course for China, Georgia's market is a small one, but it is very symbolic. We really appreciate this gesture by China. We consider it as an expression of support to Georgia, to Georgia's economy, and to our people," he said.

China is Georgia's third-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade of $820 million last year.

Georgia eyes new port to expedite Eurasian shipping

Garibashvili also said his country, which was part of the ancient Silk Road and located at the crossroads between East and West, can play a special role in the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping.

"I want Georgia to become China's strategic partner in the Caucasus region," he said.

The prime minister said Georgia wants to build a new port in Anaklia on the Black Sea and needs the participation of Chinese companies. Georgia has been negotiating with Chinese construction companies, and the project is expected to begin in June, Garibashvili added.

He said that after the new port is built, it will take just 17 days for Chinese goods to be delivered to Europe, compared with the current shipping route, which takes about a month. "This will be one of the most efficient routes in the Silk Road project," he said.

Garibashvili said the Silk Road initiative will not only boost trade, commerce and infrastructure projects, but will also "enable Central Asian countries, the Silk Road countries, to fully use the potential that exists on this continent".

"We have ambition to become a logistics hub in the region. So I believe Georgia's involvement with the Silk Road Fund and the Silk Road initiative will make it a very important player in the Caucasus region," Garibashvili said.

He also encouraged Chinese tourists to visit his country to enjoy the beautiful scenery and try the famous local wine, which has a history dating back thousands of years.

Contact the writers at lixiaokun@chinadaily.com.cn and wangqingyun@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 09/15/2015 page3)

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