The experts discussed the implementation of the “North-South International Transport Corridor: Regional Integration Prospects” project in Moscow and Baku during Trend News Agency’s Moscow-Baku video-conference held on June 13.
President of the UNEC Research Center Farhad Amirbayov and Executive Director of the North-South Political Science Center Angelika Trapeznikova were the moderators of the event in Baku and Moscow.
During the discussions, Russian and Azerbaijani experts exchanged the views on the prospects for creating new regional transport corridors and involving partners from the South Caucasus countries in the integration projects including Russia.
While delivering a report on “North-South International Transport Corridor: Transit Realities and Perspectives on Trans-Regional Integration”, well-known Russian economist Alexander Karavayev said that the North-South International Transport Corridor, which is at the initial implementation stage, retains its relevance in the current realities in terms of management of railway freight traffic.
The expert stressed that the idea of connecting partner-countries to the transport corridor has become more relevant from the point of view of trans-regional cooperation.
“Meanwhile, the first and main element in the implementation of this project is the development of relations in the Baku-Moscow-Tehran triangle,” Karavayev said.
“I think that the main trends of cooperation of the three countries in the field of transport and the issue of the need to implement a large-scale project that determines the prospects for regional and international cooperation between its participants will be considered during the upcoming summit in the trilateral format to be held in Moscow in August,” he said.
“Obviously, there is interest of the parties in the implementation of the project and in the regional countries’ entering the foreign markets," the expert added.
In turn, Russian expert Stanislav Pritchin said that the North–South International Transport Corridor project is significant in terms of geopolitics, and it is also focused on the real economy.
The expert noted that one of the main global trends is regionalization.
“The project parties are trying to move to a global level of interaction,” Pritchin said. “Let us compare North–South International Transport Corridor with the China’s One Belt-One Road Initiative. China built a network of pipelines before the global initiative was announced. But in our case [in case of North–South International Transport Corridor] we see a different situation."
"Since the initiation of the project to this day, there are still no pivotal routes from the Persian Gulf connected to Russian infrastructure,” he said. “Therefore, there is a lot of work to do.”
“For example, there is a constructive approach at the political level, and the five-sided format has been quite successful and opened the way to the signing of the Convention on the status of the Caspian Sea,” Pritchin said. “But in parallel, we see that there is a narrow grouping of countries aimed at intensifying economic cooperation."
"This cooperation, despite certain challenges and sanctions, needs to be developed,” he said. “I think that strategically, politically, and from the point of view of economic feasibility, it is necessary to complete this transport corridor, which is important for all participating countries for their business, including for entering the Indian market.”
"Azerbaijan conducts a fairly extensive policy for the export of its products and the establishment of transit through its territory, and this policy is very successful," Pritchin said.
In turn, the views of Azerbaijani experts regarding the prospects of this project and the external factors that have a direct impact on its implementation were expressed in the Baku studio.
In turn, Director of Russian Economic School, Professor of the Azerbaijan State University of Economics (UNEC) Elshad Mammadov said that the willingness of regional partners, namely Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, to support the implementation of International North-South Transport Corridor (INTC) project for many years testifies its economic feasibility and geopolitical significance.
“The strengthening of the regional partnership among the three countries testifies to the growing interest of the participating countries in the International North-South Transport Corridor,” he added.
"Today, the world economy is passing to the stage of formation of the new, sixth technological order,” Mammadov said. “We observe how the location of the centers of activity and the structural component of economic development are changing.”
“This sets new challenges for the Azerbaijani and Russian national economies, which have many similarities,” the expert said. “To some extent, this is connected to the similarity of the key sectors of the economy formed during the Soviet period, including the energy, oil and gas sectors."
Mammadov stressed that over the past decade, the project participants relied on a fairly important raw material base, ensuring a stable flow of currency, which made it possible to level all external shocks arising in the turbulent global economy.
"The issues of diversification and development of our economies, including the non-oil and high-tech sector, are priorities of the state policy of Russia and Azerbaijan,” he added. “These nuances point to the fact that this project becomes more important.”
“In my opinion, external risks and trade wars that could have disastrous consequences for the global economy are hindering the implementation of large-scale projects,” the expert said. “It is worth taking into account that developing economies may sharply collapse, more threats may occur for the implementation of such large-scale projects, and the efficiency of logistics and transport corridors may weaken as a result of the recessions on a regional and global scale."
In turn, editor-in-chief of the Day.az news agency, economist Emin Aliyev said that the importance of the North-South International Transport Corridor must be considered in several directions, including as part of cooperation between Russia and the Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as in the Azerbaijan-Russia-Iran format.
Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan has successful experience in establishing certain, bilateral and multilateral formats of cooperation with various countries in the region and the world.
"Azerbaijan has greatly advanced in integration cooperation with Turkey and Georgia,” Aliyev said. “The implementation of a number of large-scale pipeline and infrastructure projects testifies to that.”
“At the same time, we have advanced in cooperation with Russia’s certain regions, namely, the Astrakhan region, the Krasnodar region, the Stavropol region and the North Caucasus republic,” he said.
“Such formats must be expanded,” Aliyev said. “I think the deeper will be this cooperation, the more active will be the economic activity of the North-South International Transport Corridor."
“The project will not become viable till carriers want to use it,” he said.
“In my opinion, the political will of the regional countries is not enough for the successful implementation of the project,” Aliyev said. “It will become viable when the obvious benefits of cooperation on the North-South International Transport Corridor are visible.”
“In some sense, the evolutionary process of the North-South International Transport Corridor is possible by overcoming the Soviet legacy, unifying the infrastructure of post-Soviet countries and tariffs,” he said.
“The simplification of customs procedures on the border with Georgia, where the inspection processes were greatly simplified and expedited, the cargo transportation period was reduced, can be cited as an example,” Aliyev added.
“It has become much easier and convenient for Azerbaijani businessmen to export goods across the Georgian border than it was 6-7 years ago," he said.
“Similar steps must be taken on the Azerbaijani-Russian border and on the border with Iran,” Aliyev said.
Then, President of the UNEC Research Center Farhad Amirbayov, Azerbaijani political analyst Arzu Naghiyev and Russian experts Ksenia Tyurenkova, Arkadiy Ivanov, Artem Pylin shared their views regarding the prospects for the implementation of the North-South International Transport Corridor as part of the discussions.
The participants stressed that Azerbaijan and Russia will have the opportunity to combine potential in the formation of new growth points in the area of introducing a new energy strategy and transforming labour markets thanks to the participation in the North-South International Transport Corridor.
The video conference was organized by the representative office of the North-South political science center in Baku, Trend News Agency and Caspian Expert Club.
The North-South International Transport Corridor has originated in the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member-states. However, within the possibilities of the CIS free trade zones, Azerbaijan may allow this transport corridor enter Turkey through the South Caucasus.
The Iranian direction of the project will also be implemented through the capabilities of Azerbaijan via the Rasht-Astara-Qazvin railway. Thus, Azerbaijan will become the key hub of the North-South International Transport Corridor, which will greatly expand the country's logistics and infrastructure capabilities.
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