By Rasana Gasimova
Azerbaijan is China's main economic and trading partner in the South Caucasus region and the two countries enjoy $1.3-billion-trade turnover.
Recently, Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan Guo Min expressed Beijing's readiness to use the Baku International Sea Trade Port for expansion of China's transport routes through Central Asia.
Guo Min stressed that Azerbaijan was one of the first countries that responded to China's proposal to participate in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative implementation.
“China supports domestic companies to develop international transport and logistics cooperation with Azerbaijan, to promote the Asian-European transport corridor’s construction. The country is ready to fully benefit from the leading role of the Baku International Sea Trade Port, the biggest port on the Caspian Sea coast, for further expansion of transport routes from China through Central Asia, the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus to the Middle East, West Asia, North Africa and Europe,” Min told local media on October 18.
Guo Min noted that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is an important transport corridor connecting Europe and Asia, and is of great importance for the joint implementation of the One Belt One Road initiative by China and countries situated along this route.
The ambassador went on to say that the project is currently at the early stage of operation.
“With the gradual improvement of the land and sea transport infrastructure in Azerbaijan, as well as in countries along the route, the transportation coordination mechanism is improving every day and the competitiveness of this route is increasing. More Chinese enterprises are considered to start actively using this route for cross-border transportation. This will result in an increase in the flow of Chinese goods,” she added.
Guo Min noted that the turnover between the two countries has reached a record level.
According to Guo Min’s words, China invested a total of more than $800 million in Azerbaijan, aimed at oil and natural gas production as of late June 2019.
The ambassador added that Azerbaijan will send a delegation of more than 100 people to Shanghai to participate in the 2nd China International Import Expo to be held in November.
“I am sure that Azerbaijani wines, dried fruits, honey, jams and other high-quality products will enter the Chinese market,” the ambassador added.
Touching upon energy cooperation, Guo Min said that China is ready to deepen cooperation with Azerbaijan in the development of energy resources.
She noted that China and Azerbaijan have great potential for cooperation in areas of economic and trade investments, energy, interconnectivity, agriculture, etc.
“In the future, China is ready to deepen cooperation in the field of exploration and energy resources development, construction of communication infrastructure, network and information technologies and agricultural exports. Hopefully, Azerbaijani government will provide Chinese companies with more profitable conditions for investments,” the ambassador said.
Speaking about cooperation in the tourism sector, Guo Min emphasized that according to statistics provided by Azerbaijan’s State Tourism Agency, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Azerbaijan from January through August 2019 reached 20,000, which is 44 percent more than in the previous period.
“The number of Chinese tourists visiting the Old City (Icheri Sheher), the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, mud volcanoes, the Ateshgah fire-worshipping temple and other historical monuments has significantly increased,” Guo Min said.
Guo Min said that simplification of visa procedures for Azerbaijani citizens was discussed with the Chinese authorities.
“We have discussed this issue with the competent authorities of China. We will open more channels for obtaining visas and will simplify the procedure of visa obtaining, “she said.
The ambassador noted that the Chinese Embassy is ready to invite Azerbaijani travel agencies representatives and discuss their difficulties in obtaining Chinese visa.
“We will try to solve all these problems. The embassy will also work to raise awareness about its visa policy in Azerbaijan,” she said.
According to Guo Min, the fact that China has not so far simplified the visa procedure for Azerbaijani citizens does not mean that China has concerns related to Azerbaijan.
“Each country has its own visa policy. Our visa policy is a reflection of our sovereignty. I know that many Azerbaijanis do business in China. We will fully support them,” said Guo Min.
The ambassador also mentioned that the two countries have great potential for space cooperation.
“We look forward to cooperating with Azerbaijan in this sphere. China can help Azerbaijan achieve even greater progress. We should establish contacts between the competent authorities of the two countries to cooperate in the space sector. The Azerbaijan-Chinese intergovernmental commission in the economy field is functioning. We should also create other mechanisms, for example, in the high technologies field. Thanks to these mechanisms, we will be able to discuss cooperation issues in more detail. We have great prospects for cooperation in this direction.” the ambassador said.
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