Victor Kipiani, Chairman of Geocase was invited to speak at the panel discussion - 'Trans-Caspian Connectivity and Infrastructure Development' - held on June 9, 2021, in the framework of the 5th Annual Trans-Caspian Forum 2021 which was co-organized by the Embassies of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, and supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Agency for International Development, with the participation of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. National Security Council.
The Caspian Policy Center (CPC), an independent, nonprofit research think tank based in Washington D.C., hosted the event.
The aim of the forum was to explore the business, trade, and investment opportunities between the United States and the Trans-Caspian corridor countries.
Matt Edwards, Director of the Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Global Market-U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Security and Politics Program Chair at the Caspian Policy Center, moderated an insightful conversation among the Forum participants on the connectivity and infrastructure development in the Caspian region.
The panelists, Odilbek Isakov, Deputy Minister of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Arif Mammadov, Head of Transport Policy Department, Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan; Ketevan Salukvadze, Head of Transport and Logistics Development Policy Department, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia; Taleh Ziyadov, General Director of Baku International Sea Trade Port; Abay Turikpenbayev, President of the Aktau International Sea Trade Port; Hiroyuki Suzuki, Chief Representative in Washington, D.C., Japan Bank of International Cooperation; Farhad Guliyev, Deputy Chairman, Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company; and Victor Kipiani, Chair of Geocase discussed the feasibility of new infrastructure projects and the mechanisms to appropriately finance these endeavors by foreign investors.
“we all should unite and combine our efforts - this is a win-win game. I don't believe that any single country could accomplish, to the largest extent, all the benefits which the region provides if it is not united in its efforts, political will, capacity et cetera. The trust and credibility, especially in this extremely competitive global business environment, is something which brings us all on the same page, regardless of differences in political regimes or in foreign policy trajectories - this is the most unifying driving force”- noted Victor Kipiani in his speech.
He highlighted the opportunities which could fall onto the region as a result of redesigning the global supply chain and underlined potential Georgia could offer in the context of “C5+1” due to its special trade regime with the European Union.
Victor Kipiani, also, touched upon the challenges the region is facing and emphasized some of the major ones: “The first challenge is that the region is still in the conditions of the transitional political environment, which also relates to the fragility of its institutions. So-called frozen conflicts or pseudo-ethnic conflicts, which are essentially geopolitical conflicts, are very handy leverage in the hands of various rogue regimes or revisionist states to instigate, manipulate and force the region to depart from the rule-based order, as well as limiting the free choice of a sovereign nation,”- he mentioned.
According to Victor Kipiani, it is very important to beef up the region with a Western presence in order to change the resent misperceptions regarding the region’s slight devoid of the Western robust business and political support.
“Doing business in the region, it's not just about businesses per se, it's about sending a clear message to the region where various regional powers are tackling with each other for a soft power dominance... More interconnectedness, more interdependency yet more presence of the Western interest in the region ensures, to the largest extent possible, healthy business environment, safety, security, and prosperity for all the countries in the region,”- remarked Kipiani in conclusion.
At the end of the panel, the speakers have recognized the benefits of implementing infrastructure projects to achieve the Caspian region’s geographical potential by designing numerous transportation corridors and connectivity strategies. The panelists identified several key infrastructure projects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway, the Lapis Lazuli international transit corridor, and the new Aktau terminal as successful commercial project examples.