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G20 members to unveil EU-Mid East-India trade plan

By AFP - Sep 09,2023 - Last updated at Sep 09,2023

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and France's President Emmanuel Macron attend a session at the G20 Summit in New Delhi on Saturday (AFP photo)

NEW DELHI — Major G20 partners will unveil ambitious plans Saturday to bolster trade between India, the Middle East and Europe, a modern-day Spice Route to bind regions that account for about a third of the global economy.

Washington, Saudi Arabia, the EU, the United Arab Emirates and others will sign an agreement on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, presenting an alternative to China's wide-ranging strategic infrastructure investments.

Officials told AFP the plan would include a slew of data, rail, electricity and hydrogen pipeline projects.

One proposed project would link railway and port facilities across the Middle East — including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel — potentially speeding trade between India and Europe by up to 40 per cent.

"The India — Middle East — Europe economic corridor" is "nothing less than historic" European Union leaders are expected to say when the details of the plans are unveiled later Saturday. 

The agreement would boost trade but is also seen as another significant step towards Arab Gulf states normalising relations with Israel.

Washington is actively prodding Riyadh — a major oil producer and security partner — to normalise ties with Israel after decades of conflict and closed borders.

The initiative "has enormous potential", according to Jon Finer, US deputy national security adviser.

He said the public announcement would come after "months of careful diplomacy, quiet, careful diplomacy, bilaterally and in multilateral settings".

The Europe-to-India project is still in the early stages, with participants studying how best to link India's vast 1.4 billion population and quick-growing economy with markets to the west.

According to details seen by AFP, the India — Middle East — Europe economic corridor would also develop infrastructure to enable the production and transport of "green hydrogen".

It would also strengthen telecommunications and data transfers through a new undersea cable connecting the region.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia Institute director at The Wilson Centre, said the plan could be a significant response to China's much-vaunted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The so-called BRI has spread Chinese influence, investments and commerce across Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

"If finalised, it would be a game changer that strengthens connectivity between India and the Middle East and would aim to counter BRI," Kugelman posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.


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