First TIR transports in China advance Belt and Road prospects

A ceremony in Dalian, Liaoning province on Friday marked the opening of China’s borders for Transports Internationaux Routiers, the customs convention on the international transportation of goods. Offering time savings in China of up to 80 percent, the global customs transit standard connects 73 countries across the world and is a cornerstone of the Belt and Road Initiative to boost economic and trade development.

Six gateways – Dalian, Erenhot and Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Horgos and Irkeshtam in Xinjiang autonomous region, and Suifenhe Port in Heilongjiang province – started TIR operations on May 18, enhancing interconnectivity between countries across the region.

Umberto de Pretto, secretary-general of International Road Transport Union, the organization that manages TIR with United Nations’ authorization, said that TIR would transform China’s links with its neighbors, bringing benefits across the region and facilitating the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative. He said the start of TIR operations sends a strong signal to the world that China is opening up its markets and connecting more efficiently across its borders.

As the only global customs transit system for moving goods across international borders, TIR has been supporting trade and development for more than 60 years, by allowing customs-sealed vehicles and freight containers to transit countries with minimal border checks.

With the potential to increase the total trade volume between China and other major countries along the Belt and Road route by up to $13.6 billion – representing 1.4 percent of China’s total volume of trade exports – the activation of TIR will see Chinese goods going global with greater efficiency, while foreign imports will enjoy faster and safer transit.

Zhang Jianping, director of Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation at Ministry of Commerce, said connectivity was an important element of the Belt and Road Initiative, directly determining the smooth flow of goods. TIR’s arrival in China would largely increase the level of trade facilitation within the area related to the initiative, reduce transaction costs and increase the efficiency of trade and investment.

Xu Chen, a professor at University of International Business and Economics, said the further implementation and development of the TIR system in China must first be linked with the reform of customs clearance and integrated with the system of customs clearance integration throughout the country to avoid breaks in data.

“The long-term development of TIR systems in China requires national support and the cooperation of various countries to solve the problems limiting the convenience of international road transportation,” he added.

The Dalian ceremony also marked the opening of the first road caravan route for the 5,600 kilometer journey from Dalian to Novosibirsk in Russia. TIR is expected to play a pivotal role along the new route by expediting customs clearance and efficiency.

China ratified the UN TIR Convention in July 2016, becoming the 70th contracting party. So far, there are 73 contracting parties across the globe.

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