China-Arab economic ties get B&R boost

BY  | FROM  | 2017-09-07 14:13

According to Abdulrahman Al-Basri, very few Chinese companies worked on contract in Saudi Arabia 10 years ago. Today, Chinese workers are everywhere.

From skyscrapers to oil rigs, Chinese companies in Saudi Arabia work swiftly and cost-effectively.

"We would welcome more engineering companies from China, as well as IT and others," Al-Basri, vice president of SABIC, a Riyadh-based chemical company, said Wednesday at the business session of the ongoing China-Arab States Expo in northwest China.

The corporate executive is far from the only one encouraged by closer China-Arab ties at the gathering in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Running till Saturday, the four-day expo has assembled executives from over 1,000 companies and nearly 5,000 exhibitors from 31 industries ranging from transportation to big data, along with government representatives and academics. The event has been held three times since 2013, the year the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed.

Economic ties between the two sides were steady, but the Belt and Road Initiative shifted cooperation into another gear.

The expo is important to expanding cooperation, Kamal Hassan Ali, assistant secretary general for economic affairs of the Arab League, told the opening gathering.

A total of 321 deals in science and technology, finance, energy, agriculture, health, tourism, culture and education were made during previous events, with total contract worth tens of billions of U.S. dollars.

China-Arab trade reached 171 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, and agreements on projects worth 40 billion dollars were signed between the two sides, up 40.8 percent from 2015. China's non-financial direct investment in Arab countries surged 74.9 percent.

At the junction of the Belt and Road that spans across Eurasia, Arab countries are eager to revitalize ancient trade routes, Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil said.

Six Arab states signed agreements with China on the Belt and Road and seven are founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Joint infrastructure projects were worth 46 billion U.S. dollars last year.

"The Belt and Road has created new opportunities and offers a better business environment for both Chinese and Arab companies," said Ding Hongxiang, vice president of China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach), a Fortune 500 company.

Entering Arab markets more than 30 years ago, Sinomach has a solid presence there, with infrastructure projects ranging from power plants to schools and hospitals. Projects valued at 3.8 billion U.S. dollars are still in progress.

Chinese firms have channeled investment and production capacity that is badly needed for the industrialization of Middle East, Kabil said.

"We hope to attract Chinese businesses to build industrial parks... to help the development of textile, furniture, electronics and chemical industries," Kabil said, promising favorable measures including tax breaks and shortened approval procedures.

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