It is estimated that by 2034, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway will carry 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo annually, Report informs, citing foreign media.
The Middle Corridor, formally known as the Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor Initiative, reflects Turkey’s dream of building links to China via the Caucasus and Central Asia. The Middle Corridor trade route project connects China to Europe via Turkey through railways and highways. Turkey views the Middle Corridor as a complement to China’s Belt and Road Initiative rather than a competitor.
Completed in 2017, the BTK is one of the initiative’s main projects.
So far, the first cargo train from China to Europe using the Middle Corridor arrived in Turkey in November 2019, and the first cargo train from Turkey using the same route arrived in China in December 2020.
As part of the Middle Corridor and BRI, Turkey has made numerous substantial infrastructure investments. The most prominent include the Marmaray undersea railway, Eurasia Tunnel, and the Third Istanbul Bridge that connects Europe and Asia through Istanbul and the Istanbul Airport. Several other infrastructure projects such as the Çanakkale Strait Bridge, Edirne-Kars high-speed rail, and the Three-Level Tube Tunnel are also underway.
Both China and Turkey are eager to integrate the BRI and Middle Corridor. President Erdoğan said that “the Middle Corridor… lies at the heart of the BRI” and that Turkey “will continue to work with our Chinese friends to integrate the Middle Corridor into the BRI.”
Turkey-China trade relations grew substantially after China joined the World Trade Organization on December 11, 2001. At the time, bilateral trade was less than 2 billion US dollars. Over the next 20 years, the turnover reached 26 billion US dollars. However, this is an uneven relationship. While China’s exports to Turkey total 23.041 billion US dollars, Turkey’s exports to China total a mere 2.865 billion US dollars.
One way to change the uneven trade landscape is to increase Chinese investments in Turkey through initiatives like the BRI. Although China is not among the top ten investors in Turkey, over 1,000 Chinese companies have invested in areas such as finance, energy, production, and infrastructure.
China has also made significant infrastructure investments in the country. In 2015, a Chinese consortium acquired 65 percent of Turkey’s third-largest container port, Kumport, for 940 million US dollars.