Could the 'Middle Corridor' offer a secure trade route that bypasses the Red Sea?

Containers are pictured in the small harbour in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.
Containers are pictured in the small harbour in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Copyright AP Photo/Michael Probst
By Tamsin PaternosterEuronews' Athens bureau
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As ships in the Suez Canal and Red Sea face attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels, Europe and China explore options for a more secure supply chain.

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The so-called "Middle Corridor", a trade route that would link Chinese and European markets through Central Asia and the Caucasus, was the focus of the 5th Balkans and Black Sea Forum held on Thursday 15th of February.

Delegates at the conference promoted the Middle Corridor as an opportunity for a stable trade route amid escalating tensions in the Middle East and the war between Russia and Ukraine. 

Global trade across traditional routes has been disrupted by these crises. “All crises, each in its own way, affect global trade routes. At the end it comes down to increased costs: increased costs of transport, of security and of communication,” said Dimitrios Rallis, Deputy Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Secretariat.

A Middle Corridor, which would run from Kazakhstan's eastern border with China and transport goods to Europe via the Caspian and Black Sea, could halve travel times between the western border of China and Europe, according to a report published by the World Bank in November 2023. 

Critics say that the proposal has risks, including facilitating various geoeconomic ambitions of Russia and China. 

Obstacles in global trade persist as Iran-backed Houthi rebels continue to strike commercial vessels in the Red Sea with drone and rocket attacks. The waterway, which accounts for as much as 12% of global trade, is vital for maintaining trade flows coming into Europe. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development known as UNCTAD estimates that trade volume through the Red Sea has dropped by 42% over the last two months.

The European Union has launched a bespoke naval mission called 'Mission Aspides' to protect European-operated ships, restore freedom of navigation in the region and stimulate trade to its former level.

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