BATL: next trains from China may not come if there is no uni­fied tar­iff pol­icy

Baltic News Network - - Front Page -

The sign­ing of doc­u­ments at the 16+1 summit in Riga is no rea­son for the gov­ern­ment to be­come self-con­fi­dent and as­sume the prob­lems in the tran­sit in­dus­try will re­solve on their own. Latvia has to con­tinue ac­tive, con­struc­tive talks with as many cur­rent and po­ten­tial part­ners, in­clud­ing Rus­sia and Be­larus, as pres­i­dent of Baltic As­so­ci­a­tion – Trans­port and Lo­gis­tics Inga An­tane told Dienas Biz­ness.

«Rus­sian car­goes are leaving Latvia. This is the reality we face af­ter twenty years of slum­ber. Lat­vian ports are al­ready be­hind their neigh­bours cargo turnover-wise – our turnover has de­clined 13.5% in the first seven months of this year. Turnover of Klaipeda port has in­creased 4.2% in the same time pe­riod. Part of the car­goes from Ventspils has been di­verted to Klaipeda. The rea­son for this is nei­ther the geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, nor in Rus­sia’s de­sire to sink us. It is sim­ple – Lithua­nia has man­aged to de­velop and of­fer a more favourable tar­iff plan for car­goes from Be­larus.

It is clear Chi­nese car­goes will not be enough to re­place Rus­sian car­goes. Nev­er­the­less, we have to se­ri­ously con­sider the word spo­ken by Chi­nese Prime Minister Li Ke­qiang dur­ing the 16+1 summit in Riga – that the first train will be fol­lowed by the next trains only if Latvia’s of­fer is deemed in­ter­est­ing for the Scan­di­na­vian mar­ket and as long as car­goes will be sent back to China,» – An­tane said. Ac­cord­ing to her, it is a very clear in­vi­ta­tion and proof that Latvia has to de­velop an ap­pro­pri­ate tran­sit cor­ri­dor and tar­iff of­fer, which BATL has called for mul­ti­ple times. «With­out a flex­i­ble, com­pet­i­tive and uni­fied tar­iff pol­icy, we may never see any new trains from China. Un­for­tu­nately, our cries fell on deaf ears, and Latvia failed to com­plete its home­work be­fore the summit. In­stead the gov­ern­ment de­cided to ex­tend the de­vel­op­ment of the uni­fied of­fer un­til 2018,» – An­tane added.

She added that it is vital to con­tinue co­op­er­a­tion with cur­rent and po­ten­tial part­ners in spe­cific projects. China has es­tab­lished the Great Stone in­dus­trial park in Be­larus. It is clear that this project has a ma­jor role to play in the New Silk Road ini­tia­tive to fur­ther en­hance land con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween China and Europe. This is why co­op­er­a­tion with Be­larus may prove cru­cial for Latvia’s tran­sit in­dus­try.

«Small China [Great Stone com­plex] is lo­cated a mere 600 km away from Latvia. Whether or not we con­sider this dis­tance and use the ex­pe­ri­ence in at­tract­ing Chi­nese car­goes for our tran­sit cor­ri­dor de­pends in our abil­ity to of­fer an at­trac­tive and ap­pro­pri­ate of­fer for cargo flow to Scan­di­navia through Latvia’s ports. The ques­tion we should ask our­selves – is the of­fer of our ports more at­trac­tive than the of­fer of Klaipeda? The an­swer is quite sim­ple – yes, but only as long as we come up with a uni­fied cor­ri­dor of­fer for a flex­i­ble and com­pet­i­tive tar­iff. We can­not af­ford to wait un­til 2018. Co­op­er­a­tion with Be­larus and Great Stone should be pri­or­ity num­ber one for the gov­ern­ment,» – An­tane told Dienas Biz­ness.

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