Posts Tagged ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)’

Iran’s geostrategic location has made it the key link in China’s New Silk Road to Europe, while the Middle East has become one of Beijing’s geopolitical pivots.



Following the inking of the Iranian nuclear deal, Beijing has bolstered its economic and political ties with Tehran and with good reason: Iran is not only a prospective supplier of oil and natural gas but also the key geostrategic region for the China-led New Silk Road project.

“Iran is the key link of the “Silk Road” land route to Europe, as it is connected to China by a railway through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan,” Sarkis Tsaturyan, a Russian-Armenian historian and international policy analyst, writes in his latest report for Regnum.

The analyst specifies that he is referring to the Zhanaozen — Gyzylgaya — Bereket — Kyzyl Atrek — Gorgan railway, built between 2009 and 2014.Indian scholar and strategic affairs consultant Debalina Ghoshal echoes Tsaturyan’s stance in her opinion piece for YaleGlobal Online.

She points to the fact that since the signing of the Iranian nuclear deal, Beijing is emerging as a principal beneficiary of the agreement.

While the West is still reluctant to finance deals with Iran out of fear of violating sanctions which remain in place, China has jumped at the opportunity to outperform its Western competitors.

There are several reasons for China’s pivot to the Middle East and most notably Iran.According to the scholar, Middle Eastern markets are essential for Beijing’s New Silk Road initiative to create a network of manufacturing and logistics centers in Central Asia and Europe.

“China’s demand for oil imports is expected to grow from 6 million barrels per day to 13 million by 2035, and Iran, ranked fourth in the world in proven oil reserves and second in terms of natural gas reserves, is considered a reliable supplier,” she underscores.

Ghoshal points to the fact that China’s interest in Iran goes “beyond its energy resources.”

“It [China] has a keen interest in Iran’s geostrategic location, bordering both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The location enables China to carry out the One Belt One Road agenda,” the Indian scholar emphasizes.

Tsaturyan calls attention to the fact that Beijing is racing against the clock to build a route through Iran to the European Union: China wants to create a free trade zone with Europe to outstrip the US’ Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) project.Indeed, China’s European pivot is no less important than the Middle Eastern one.

“The ultimate prize in the Silk Road plan — also known in China as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative — is someplace else: Europe,” Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy magazine wrote in early June, explaining that the EU bloc represents a bigger and richer market for Beijing than emerging economies along the Road.

Meanwhile, the Transcaucasia region has recently become a “battleground” for the US and China, Tsaturyan adds.

Indeed, while Washington tries to exert its influence on Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan — the former Soviet Republics — Beijing and Tehran are engaging the nations’ interest in the China-led project.

The analyst remarks, that in this context, Iran’s political maneuvers in Armenia and Azerbaijan have acquired a new meaning.

On the one hand, Tehran has confirmed its commitment to implementing the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway project, with the Rasht-Astara section connecting the rail networks of Iran and Azerbaijan, according to Tasnim News Agency. The new corridor is set to become a multi-purpose route between Iran, Azerbaijan, Europe and Russia.On the other hand, Iran has abolished its visa regime with Armenia, prompting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to raise the issue of a new transport corridor between the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea, which would connect Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Bulgaria, Tsaturyan points out, citing Focus News.

Regardless of Washington’s displeasure, China and its important Middle Eastern ally Iran are pushing ahead with their new infrastructural projects, aimed at unifying the Eurasian trade space.

And still, when it comes to Caucasus and Transcaucasia, it is Russia which can lend its helping hand to Beijing and Tehran.


Russia is pushing ahead with its project of a “more extensive Eurasian partnership” involving the Eurasian Economic Union, Moscow’s CIS partners as well as China, India, Pakistan and Iran; meanwhile, Beijing and Moscow continue to build a Eurasian economic corridor that will stretch from Shanghai to Berlin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing, scheduled on June 25, aims to strengthen economic ties between Russia and China and facilitate the development of the countries’ Eurasian projects.

In his interview with Xinhua, recorded on June 17 on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin emphasized:

“It turns out that to say we [Russia and China] have strategic cooperation is not enough anymore. This is why we have started talking about a comprehensive partnership and strategic collaboration.”

“‘Comprehensive’ means that we work virtually on all major avenues; ‘strategic’ means that we attach enormous inter‑governmental importance to this work,” the President of Russia explained.

It is expected that the leaders of the two countries will sign more than 30 documents during Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing.”Predictably, the Russian President’s trip to the People’s Republic of China has become the focus of worldwide attention, especially after inking the agreement of integration of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the China-led New Silk Road initiative on May 8, 2015,” Sarkis Tsaturyan, a Russian-Armenian historian and international policy analyst, writes in his recent article for Regnum.

The analyst points out that over the past year Moscow has taken considerable steps in the Asian direction. For instance, on May 1, President Putin approved Federal law N120-FZ on ratification of free trade between the EAEU and Vietnam.

“Now Thailand is knocking on Russia’s door,” the analyst remarks, adding that not only Moscow is interested in Russo-Thailand rapprochement, but also Beijing, that is planning to build a navigation channel in the south of the kingdom, bypassing the Strait of Malacca.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his address at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
© Sputnik/ Vladimir Astapkovich
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his address at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

However, there is much more to be done.

Speaking at the plenary session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17 President Putin called attention to the fact that over 40 states and international organizations have expressed their willingness to establish a free trade zone with the EAEU, thus creating a “greater integration area.”

“Our partners and we think that the EAEU can become one of the centers of a greater emergent integration area… Now we propose considering the prospects for more extensive Eurasian partnership involving the EAEU and countries with which we already have close partnership — China, India, Pakistan and Iran — and certainly our CIS partners, and other interested countries and associations,” the Russian President underscored.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his address at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

According to Tsaturyan, Vladimir Putin’s message does not require further clarification, especially in the context of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s earlier speech at the State Duma on June 15.During a Government Hour at Russia’s State Duma Lavrov pointed out that an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and China “is being drafted,” as well as “an agreement in principle on a search for ways of integrating the development plans of the EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt.” He added that negotiations on establishing free trade zones with many states from different parts of the world are also underway.

“New horizons are opening up by the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the start of consultations between the member states of the EAEU, the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization] and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] on forming a comprehensive Eurasian economic partnership in the future,” Lavrov told the State Duma.

From right, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (File)

Russia and China’s initiatives are understandable in the light of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) projects championed by the US. Both countries are interested in creating a unified economic space in Eurasia.Meanwhile, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping has tested waters in Central and Eastern Europe during his latest trip. Remarkably, Beijing’s initiative has received high praise in Warsaw and Belgrade, while the Baltic States are also seeking a way to jump on the New Silk Road bandwagon.

Tsaturyan explains that the China-led New Silk Road initiative envisages the creation of a 13,000 km-long corridor that will cross China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany. As a result a unified economic space from Shanghai to Berlin will be established on the Eurasian continent, he stresses.

The analyst hinted at the fact that Germany and other major European countries are also interested in this integration process, regardless of Washington’s obvious displeasure. According to Tsaturyan, Berlin and London seek to diminish the US’ influence in Eurasia and swing the balance in their own favor.

Apparently, therefore German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has openly denounced NATO’s Anaconda-2016 military drills on Russia’s doorstep as “warmongering” and “saber-rattling” that can deteriorate the situation on the continent and worsen the EU relations with Russia, the analyst suggests.

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