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France is preparing a first meeting for IMEC Corridor link

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PARIS : France seeks to promote a first meeting to advance IMEC, the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor from Europe to India via Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. President Emmanuel Macron has appointed Gerard Méstrallet, Former chairperson and CEO of French Energy Company Engie, as his envoy for IMEC.

France ascribes great importance to the project as a counter to China’s “Belt and Road” program. It is designed to ease communications and the movement of goods between Europe and India through a network of railways, shipping lanes, gas pipelines, and telecommunications cables. “I’d like to convene the representatives of other IMEC member states in a gathering in the next two months,” Méstrallet said, but added that it was too early to say where or how the meeting would take place.

Giant French companies have expressed interest in participating in the project, among them shipping line CMA CGM, energy company Total, engineering company Alstom, cable and optical fiber company Nexans, and construction and logistics companies.

US President Joe Biden announced the project at the G20 summit in September last year, in the presence of Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. According to estimates published in India at the time, the project will cost $20 billion.

Besides countering the Chinese “Belt and Road” program, such a project will also compete with a similar Russian initiative. In July 2022, Russia’s RZD Logistics became the first company to use the 7,200 kilometer “International North-South Transport Corridor” linking Moscow to India’s largest city, Mumbai, via Iran. Other member states in the INSTC Project are Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Ukraine, and Syria. According to a study by the Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations in India, the INSTC rail, road and sea route saves 30% of the cost and 40% of the time of the route between Russia and India via the Suez Canal.

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