INSIGHTS. Great Stone – Not an Obstacle, but a Waymark on the New Silk Road

There are numerous proverbs on stones and roads, such as ‘A small stone may break a wagon even on a good road.’

A small one may indeed, but upon seeing a great stone, the wagon will stop and its driver will make a decision, which way should be taken next. Several years ago by the effort of two states – China and Belarus, a similar stone has risen on the New Silk Road, crossing the Belarusian lands. It seems that this stone, located 25 kilometres from the Belarusian capital of Minsk, is becoming a popular stopping place for numerous travellers that take this road.

In early July, the China-Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park hosted the first cooperation and regional development forum, organised in the framework of the One Belt – One Road initiative. The major topic of the forum was ‘Open Great Stone park – an example of global opportunities’. It caught the interest of approximately 700 participants from more than 30 countries.

What was the purpose of the forum?

The answers to this question could be found in the welcoming speeches of the forum participants and expert business reports.

In his welcoming letter to the forum, the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko emphasized that ‘Belarus was one of the first states of Europe to answer the invitation to participate in this global project, offered by Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China. In 2014, we have signed an agreement and a year later, together with the Chinese leader, gave start to the establishment of the park. Today it has been rightfully acknowledged as an example of the coordination of economic interests between Europe and Asia and ‘a pearl on the Belt and Road’.

Meanwhile, the Chinese representative ensured that both countries are aiming to turn this industrial park, operating according to the principles of a special economic zone, into the most competitive field of operations on the entire Belt and Road. There are already 44 companies from China, Belarus, Austria, Germany, Russia, Lithuania, the USA and Israel. These include such world-known companies as the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and ZTE, the China Merchants, which operates the park, and the diesel producer Weichai, which has teamed up with MAZ – one of the most well-known Belarusian brands and heavy transport producers – to produce diesel engines and gear boxes in the territory of the Great Stone park.

Planned company investments into various projects exceed 1 billion US dollars.

11 more companies have registered during the forum, making the total number of residing companies – 55.

Alexander Yaroshenko, Head of the Administration of the industrial park, is glad that the companies from eight countries have been joined by residents from Switzerland that have expanded the geography of the industrial park. He says that the park’s geography should expand even further in the upcoming year with an expected 85 or even more companies coming to the park, while at least 30 companies should release their products by the end of 2020.

The goods, produced at the industrial park may be freely imported to any country of the Eurasian Economic Union – a market of 183 million clients – with no customs, border crossing or other obstacles. The visitors of the park will also benefit from the visa-free regime.

At the end of August, representatives of Swiss companies have already visited the industrial park, getting to know the park’s infrastructure and investment opportunities. According to the park’s administration, the Swiss representatives have highly acknowledged the construction and installation works, the pace of the park’s development and the conditions for establishing business. Bilateral negotiations revolved around the issue of establishing a Swiss sub-park in the territory of the Great Stone Industrial Park, as well as attracting Swiss capital and competencies.

Great Stone – an ambitious project

In order to maintain a competitive advantage, it is important to focus not only on the park’s development and growth, but also its individual concept of development, which makes the park stand out among the more than one thousand of free economic zones in Europe. Sergey Vaitekhovsky, Deputy General Director of the Industrial Park Development Company, believes that what makes it stand out is the special development philosophy: a well-thought-out strategy and its gradual implementation. Its main idea is the development of a new modern and environmentally-friendly city, based on latest technology and suitable both for business and convenient life, in parallel to the industrial park.

Kirill Koroteev, First Deputy General Director of the Industrial Park Development Company, is also convinced of the Great Stone’s being an ambitious project. He believes that the Great Stone is a city of the future and its 112 sq. km territory will be completely transformed into not only industrial, but also residential areas by 2060.

The influence of the park’s development can be felt also outside its territory – first of all Minsk Airport, which should also be expanded and modernised.

Lithuania is ready to provide logistics services

The interest in the industrial park under development in the neighbourhood has been raised in Lithuania as well.

Lithuania’s goal is to provide high-quality transport and logistics services, as well as to create favourable conditions for transit cargo flows between Europe and China. A reliable and effective cargo logistics from the Lithuanian-Belarusian border to the port of Klaipėda, based on the increasing needs of the Great Stone Industrial Park, is one of the priorities of our cooperation with Belarus.’ says the press release, published by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Some of the priorities to encourage this activity include the long-term cooperation experience between Lithuania and Belarus in the fields of transport and logistics, good communication between state institutions and transport companies, the ability to solve such issues, as crossing the Lithuanian-Belarusian state border in half an hour by rail – all this not only increases the cargo flows both ways, but also increases the cooperation potential between the countries in developing economic relations between Europe and Asia.

Klaipėda state seaport, Lithuanian Railways and Kaunas Free Economic Zone have already signed letters of intent regarding cooperation with the Great Stone Industrial Park. This reaffirms their aims to develop logistics, focusing a special attention on the cargo flows between Chinese, Belarusian and Lithuanian logistics centres.

For Europe-bound Chinese cargo, Lithuanian Railways offer to use the maximum potential of the country’s advantage – the synergy of two railway gauges – 1435 mm and 1520 mm – and the terminals, connecting them in Šeštokai and Kaunas, the Rail Baltica line, and also the intermodal terminals in Vilnius and Kaunas.

During the forum’s plenary session on ‘One Belt-One Road, interaction between countries towards cooperation’, a speech was also presented by Rokas Masiulis, Minister of Transport and Communications, who led the Lithuanian delegation, noting that Lithuania’s goal is to provide high-quality transport and logistics services, as well as to create favourable conditions for transit cargo flows between Europe and China, while the reliable and efficient cargo logistics is one of the priority areas of Lithuania’s cooperation with Belarus.

The regional cooperation and development forum was also attended by representatives of Klaipėda state seaport, Lithuanian Railways, Lithuanian Business Confederation, Lithuanian National Road Carriers’ Association Linava, Lineka Lithuanian National Association of Forwarders and Logistics and others.

During the forum the delegation of the Republic of Lithuania met Aleksei Avramenko, Minister of Transport of Belarus, and discussed cooperation on the issues of transport in the development of the connections between Europe and Asia.

Based on the information from the Great Stone Industrial Park, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania, Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in the Republic of Belarus.

 

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International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been published since 1999
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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been
published since 1999.

ISSN 1392-7825

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