China and Spain agreed on Wednesday to build on the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties to jointly promote the development of the relationship. The two countries share a deep understanding and admiration for each other, at the cultural and social levels as well as in the political and economic dimensions.
The three-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Spain which ended on Thursday is great proof of that relationship. Both countries have demonstrated that collaboration can bring very positive outcomes to their respective economies and societies.
Under the umbrella of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a railway route linking the capital Madrid with Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang Province, was launched in 2014.
The Yiwu-Madrid freight route (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) is the longest cargo train in the world, covering 13,052 kilometers in 21 days.
Although the BRI was proposed by China, Beijing does not seek leadership of it. China proposed the BRI as an integrated project, which not only promotes business and cultural exchanges with China but also among the countries and regions that embrace it.
Spain's exports to China are increasing day by day. Many factors have contributed to this success, including the competitiveness of Spanish companies and the high quality and value of Spanish products.
Further, the BRI represents a chance to expand exports. The BRI is not only a logistics alternative - it is also a unique business opportunity.
Since its first trip four years ago, the train has operated 291 times and carried 23,636 containers. It has become an entry platform for many Spanish companies into the Chinese market, and the reverse.
All these achievements were possible due to the support of the Spanish and Chinese governments and institutions in both countries.
Like any project of this magnitude, the Yiwu-Madrid train has challenges. For instance, the service still needs to offer reefer containers, which will allow the transport of goods that require temperature control. Doing so will create a revolution for the Spanish fruit and vegetable industry.
However, the biggest challenge facing the Madrid-Yiwu train is not only one of presenting itself as a logistics alternative, but also an opportunity to approach the Chinese market. To achieve that goal, more leading companies in China and Spain should join the project.
It is time to encourage Spanish companies to use the return route to provide the Chinese market with more Spanish products.
Offering users an opportunity to access the extraordinary ecosystem for e-commerce in China and its leading platforms, such Alibaba, is a clear objective. Also, this process can help Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises to go abroad.
The train is not intended to replace maritime transport. Rather, it offers an alternative for companies that want to exchange goods and services with China, adding value to the entire export process.
The China-Europe route is not a project any longer - it's a reality. As a key component of the BRI, the train must align itself with the spirit and values of the Initiative.
Carlos Santana is the director of YXE Train in Spain and adjunct professor in IE University. Mao Wenjin is the president of the Foundation for Exchange between Yiwu and Spain.