On the morning of Jan 4, a freight train left Guoyuan Port in Chongqing carrying a full load of goods to Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region for shipment to Myanmar and India.
Niu Xiandan, president of the port’s international logistics company, said, “Thanks to the accelerated construction of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, our port is well connected to railways, roads and waterways to better play its role as an international logistics hub.”
The corridor, part of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, was launched in September 2017 by western provinces in China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The route enables goods from western provinces in China to be shipped to and from countries such as Singapore through the Beibu Gulf and Guangxi by road, rail and water. The route also connects Europe to Southeast Asia, with Chongqing acting as a key rail hub.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Guoyuan Port handled more than 14 million metric tons of freight last year, a 70 percent rise on the total in 2015, latest data show.
Industry insiders said more trade and investment opportunities can be explored through the corridor during the pandemic.
Cui Fan, an international trade and economics professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said, “Trade and economic cooperation between China and ASEAN is set to move forward with the development of initiatives such as the corridor.
“It is expected to offer a shorter, quicker and cheaper trade route between West China and Southeast Asia, and also help the country strengthen economic cooperation with Europe and the rest of the world.”
It now takes just two days to ship goods from Chongqing to the Beibu Gulf in Guangxi for the onward 1,450-kilometer journey to South Asia. In the past, it took 14 days to ship freight to Shanghai by river before it could be moved on to South Asia.
The recent signing of the world’s biggest trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, means that trade on the route can be better promoted.
The Ministry of Commerce said China would strive to achieve a higher level of market access based on this pact, and create a more mutually beneficial, open and inclusive economic and trade environment.
Prakash Nopo, 47, a farmer from Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency, “With more chilies sold due to the corridor, income at our plantation has risen by more than 40 percent, with the average wage of more than 30 farmers working there growing by about 20 percent.”
His chilies were recently shipped from Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, to Qinzhou Port in Guangxi, before being sent to Chongqing by rail.
Nopo said the corridor has cut the time taken for Indian chilies to reach Chongqing by seven days and reduced the cost for using each container by about 2,000 yuan ($306).
The new corridor is also being developed as a national strategy. This plan, unveiled by the National Development and Reform Commission, is aimed at building an economical, efficient, convenient, green and safe land-sea corridor for western regions.
Fan Yijiang, a senior official with the commission’s Transportation Research Department, said, “As China enters a new era and development in western regions faces a new situation, we need fresh opening-up policies and strategies.”
The corridor will be completed by 2035, according to the commission.