Project Description: The GPST Global Silk Routes Initiative (GSR)


In 2015, the same year in which the GPST was announced and the second transport-related UN General Assembly resolution was adopted, China unveiled a new regional initiative entitled the “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” commonly referred to as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. While, One Belt, One Road emphasizes trade facilitation in a regional context, the Global Silk Routes Initiative highlights issues of trade facilitation in a multimodal transport context.

At the heart of the One Belt, One Road initiative is the creation of an economic land belt that includes countries along the original historic Silk Road that links Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and Europe in addition to a maritime road linking China’s port facilities with Europe, pushing up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean and on to the African coast.

The unveiled document envisages closer coordination of economic development policies, the harmonization of technical standards for infrastructure, removal of investment and trade barriers, establishment of free trade areas, financial cooperation and “people-to-people bond” promoting cultural and academic exchanges, personnel exchanges and cooperation, media cooperation, youth and women exchanges and volunteer services. The One Belt One Road initiative is outlined in Chapter III of this report. The GPST will support the aforementioned objectives by working with government and businesses to ensure accelerated accession to agreements on trade, investment and business climate issues, as well as facilitating accession by countries along the Silk Routes to existing UN.

Goals and objectives of the GSR

Globalisation implies increasing flows of people and goods across international borders. Transport costs have significant impacts on the structure of economic activities and on international trade. Empirical evidence suggests that 10% increases in transport reduce trade volumes by more than 20%.

Shipping costs include both the direct and indirect costs of transporting products from their point of origin to their destination market. In addition to financial costs, shipping goods internationally takes time. Before being loaded on a freighter or airplane, goods must travel from the factory to the port via roads, railroads, ports, and air transportation networks, which have a direct bearing on the total time and cost of shipping. According to the World Bank's Doing Business project, the time required to export goods, including documentation, inland travel, customs clearance, and port or terminal handling for a container of goods can vary dramatically from country to country, from a low of 6 days to a maximum of 81 days.

Documentation, customs clearance, handling, and inland shipping can add 17 to 33 days to the total shipping time from most emerging market regions, and another 6 days once goods reach the United States, for example. According to a recent article in The Loadstar, costs for chartering a freighter to fly from China to the US have skyrocketed with as much as a 100% rise in rates over the last few months of 2015.

Initially, the focus of the GSR will be threefold:

(i) Removal of impediments to globalization of trade along the Silk Routes, including facilitation of efficiency in border crossings and implementation of relevant UN conventions, such as the Harmonization Convention3 and TIR Convention;

(ii) Exchange of information on best practices between private and public players across all modes of transport and relevant countries along the Silk Routes necessary for trade facilitation; and GSR has identified particular action areas and projects for its immediate focus, summarized below.

(iii) Development of best practices for investments in transport infrastructure, including ancillary infrastructure and public-private partnerships.

To achieve its goals, GSR is expected to cooperate closely with a range of international organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and in particular, CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation); the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO); the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC); the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); the European Commission (EC); the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia); the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE); the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and the World Bank, among others.