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.