PARIS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron named the former head of gas utility Engie as its special envoy to a multinational rail and ports project linking the Middle East and South Asia tipped as an alternative to China's Best and Road initiative.
By naming Gerard Mestrallet, a well-connected veteran of the energy industry, Macron wants "France to become a key player in this project" and ensure French companies are best-positioned in the early phases of the project, his office said on Monday.
The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) was launched on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September last year and is part of Washington and Brussels's plan to counter China's flagship global infrastructure project.
It aims to link Middle East countries by railway and connect them to India by port, helping the flow of energy and trade from the Gulf to Europe, U.S. and European officials have said, by cutting shipping times, costs and fuel use.
A memorandum of understanding on IMEC was signed by the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. and other G20 partners.
IMEC is envisioned to consist of two separate corridors with an east corridor connecting India to the Gulf, and a northern corridor connecting the Gulf with Europe, according to the MOU.
Along the railway route, participants intend to lay cable for power and data lines, as well as a pipeline for hydrogen derived from renewable energy for use in power generation. (Reporting by Michel Rose, Editing by William Maclean)