G20 Allies Announce Rail and Shipping Corridor Project

Biden said it was a 'real big deal' that would bridge ports across two continents and lead to a 'more stable, more prosperous and integrated Middle East' || Photo: AFP

Biden said it was a 'real big deal' that would bridge ports across two continents and lead to a 'more stable, more prosperous and integrated Middle East' || Photo: AFP

US President Joe Biden and his allies have revealed plans for the creation of a railway and maritime corridor connecting India with the Middle East and Europe, an ambitious initiative aimed at promoting economic growth and political collaboration.

Biden expressed the significance of this initiative, emphasizing it as a substantial undertaking. The corridor proposal, introduced during the annual Group of 20 (G20) summit involving the world's leading economies, aims to bolster trade, facilitate energy resource transportation, and enhance digital connectivity. The participating nations include India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel, and the European Union, as stated by Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser.

Sullivan described the network as a reflection of Biden's vision for expansive investments that result from effective American leadership and a willingness to partner with other countries. The upgraded infrastructure is expected to stimulate economic growth, foster cooperation among Middle Eastern nations, and transform the region into an economic hub, moving away from its historical role as a source of challenges, conflicts, or crises.

Leaders such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen endorsed the initiative, highlighting the potential for enhanced connectivity to promote mutual trade and trust.

This rail and shipping corridor aims to physically and digitally connect a vast geographical area, facilitating increased trade, including energy products such as hydrogen. Although specific details on the project's cost or financing were not provided, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman mentioned a figure of $20 billion during the announcement.

Following the announcement, President Biden greeted Crown Prince Mohammed with a handshake, indicating a warmer exchange compared to their previous meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Biden had criticized the prince over human rights issues.

Von der Leyen described the project as a "green and digital bridge across continents and civilizations," noting its inclusion of cables for transmitting electricity and data. She also announced a "Trans-African Corridor" connecting the Angolan port of Lobito with landlocked regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, further expanding the project's scope.

The project's timeline will involve working groups formulating detailed plans and timelines over the next 60 days, focusing on identifying investment areas and physical infrastructure connectivity. The goal is to set up financing and initiate construction within the next year.

This initiative began to take shape after President Biden's visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in July 2022, where he stressed the need for greater regional economic integration. Conversations with regional partners started in January, and efforts to finalize the agreement continued through spring, with high-level meetings in Saudi Arabia involving Indian, Saudi, and UAE counterparts.

Israel and Jordan were also brought into the project, despite not having diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. Sullivan clarified that this transportation project is not necessarily a precursor to normalization agreements but emphasized Israel's inclusion as significant for practical outcomes.

President Biden highlighted the importance of such regional investments and applauded the Trans-African Corridor as a game-changing initiative.

This G20 summit also addressed other global challenges, such as climate change and the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine. Notably, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was not invited to the summit, and the participating nations stressed the importance of a just peace based on the principles of the U.N. Charter and the cessation of attacks on civilian infrastructure. Biden also discussed additional funding for the World Bank to support economic development.

The White House aims to strengthen the G20 as an international forum, even though Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend the summit. Biden expressed disappointment over Xi's absence but noted that the summit was progressing well without them.

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