China opens second cross-border railway to Kazakhstan

Trains linking Korgas Pass of China and Sary-Ozek railway of Kazakhstan start to move during the ceremony to celebrate the opening of the second cross-border railway line that links China’s Xinjiang region and Kazakhstan, in Korgas, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Dec. 22, 2012.

A second cross-border railway between China and Kazakhstan opened Saturday.

The railway is composed of a 292-km section in China and the remaining 293-km section in Kazakhstan. They were joined at the Korgas Pass in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Contruction of the Chinese side of the railway cost 6 billion yuan (962 million U.S. dollars), railway officials said.

The rail line is expected to ease the burden of the Alataw trade pass, where the first China-central Asia railway traverses. It handles 15.6 million tonnes of train-laden cargo a year.

Industry observers expect the Korgas pass, which now connects China and Kazakhstan by a railway, a highway, and an oil pipeline, to handle 20 million tonnes of cargo a year by 2020 and 35 million tonnes a year by 2030.

The railway launch followed the meet of Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and his Kazakh counterpart Kairat Kelimbetov in Astana earlier this month, vowing to enhance bilateral cooperation in energy, trade, communication and other fields.

Wang suggested enhancing the China-Kazzkhstan interconnection by the rails and a trans-continental highway that links China with Europe.

China and five central Asian countries have been deepening trade and economic cooperations in recent years. The total trade volume between China and central, west, and south Asian countries increased from 25.4 billion U.S. dollars to more than 370 billion, up about 30 percent annually.

In particular, trade between Xinjiang and five central Asian countries reached a historical high of 16.98 billion U.S. dollars last year, according to the customs figures.

Observers said the railway will also help the border city of Korgas become a key logistics hub with a network of highways, railways and pipelines.

Since 2010, the central government has been redoubling the efforts to build Xinjiang into a regional economic center, eyeing its geological closeness to central Asia and the region’s abundant natural resources including oil, coal and natural gas.

The Korgas Pass, for example, is only 200 kilometers away from Kazakh capital Astana, and 670 kilometers from Urumqi, the major city in Xinjiang.

He Yiming, head of Xinjiang’s commerce bureau, said markets in Xinjiang and central Asian countries are highly complementary and improved logistics will definitely further boost trade.

Last year, a China-Kazakhstan free trade center, first of its kind in Eurasia, was launched at Korgas.

Favorable policies include tax reimbursement for exports and permission to carry duty free products. Citizens from China, Kazakhstan and a third country will be permitted to stay at the center for as long as 30 days.

The trade center helps to reduce barriers and facilitate bilateral trade, tapping into 60 million potential customers in central Asia, said Liang Xinyuan, executive vice director of the management committee of the Horgos Special Economic Development Zone.


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