The nation of Georgia hopes to become a logistics hub between Europe and Asia within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, a senior Georgian diplomat said in an exclusive interview.
The country's strategic location at the continental crossroads enables it to play an increasingly important role in bridging the Eastern and Western markets, David Aptsiauri, Georgian ambassador to China, said on Wednesday.
"The Belt and Road Initiative has increased the importance of my country," Aptsiauri said. Georgia's goal of becoming a logistics hub has added synergy with the initiative, he said.
China and Georgia signed the Memorandum on Silk Road Economic Belt Cooperation in March 2015. The two countries are working on an agreement on international road and rail transportation of passengers and goods, which is hoped to facilitate the development of links between them along the Silk Road.
The resources of China and other countries involved in the initiative will provide increasing opportunities for development to Georgia, Aptsiauri said.
Cooperation between Georgia and China within the initiative framework is "full-fledged", he said. In the past, the bilateral cooperation focused on construction, real estate, trade and energy, he added. "Now we have transportation, logistics, communication, agriculture, banking, tourism and many others, so the range of new fields of cooperation has been expanded."
Georgia is the first country in Eurasia to have a free-trade agreement with both the European Union and China, which, Aptsiauri said, is beneficial for Chinese companies in terms of easy and low-cost access to regional and international markets.
Aptsiauri said the relationship between Georgia and China is a good example of how countries of different sizes, resources and cultural aspects can create positive partnerships.
He quoted Georgian experts as saying exports from Georgia to China are expected to increase by 9 percent and Georgia's imports from China by 2 percent in two years. "The figures are not so important. The significance is the willingness of the two countries to create favorable conditions for trade relations," Aptsiauri said.
"This is also an indication of the willingness of the two countries to support a liberal and open trade policy without barriers."
He said China-Georgia relations are "dynamic" and "oriented toward the long term".