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The significance of Arctic trade routes for Europe and China

Staff writer |
The Arctic ice sheet is opening up new shipping routes for global trade, and China is likely to get the biggest piece of the ice cake.

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There are three main shipping routes across the Arctic region - the North East Passage, the North West Passage and the Central Route, writes Zhou Siyu for China Daily. The North East Passage opens from the end of July for four months or more, while the Central Route opens from the end of August for one month or more, explained Yang Huigen, director-general of the Polar Research Institute of China.

Speaking at the Economist's Arctic Summit in Oslo, Yang Huigen said the increased accessibility of the Arctic routes will have a considerable effect on sea trade between Europe and Asia, which is considered the world's busiest trade route. He said that the Xue Long trip to explore the route had "greatly encouraged" Chinese shipping companies.

"One commercial voyage by a Chinese shipping company may take place this summer," Yang Huigen told Reuters. He added the latest research shows the new routes could cut shipping times between Asian and European ports by about one-third, which in turn could reduce fuel and other costs as well as CO2 emissions.

Currently 90 percent of China's trade is carried by sea. The Chinese government projects its trade to grow to $7.6 trillion by 2020, and if 10 percent of China's trade was shipped through the Arctic routes by then, that could be worth $683 billion. The new routes, meanwhile, are also likely to help promote commercial ties, especially between China and Russia.

The new routes will also help promote commercial ties between China and Russia. Anton Vasiliev, ambassador-at-large for Arctic cooperation at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that of all the sectors which might benefit, "the (Russian) shipping industry will benefit the most", as it expands its use of Arctic waters, especially to China.

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