The 2010 China Investment and Trade Fair and the first China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum opened Sunday in northwestern Yinchuan City, with aims to strengthen investment and trade ties between China and the Arabic states.
“The forum will certainly strengthen and deepen the traditional friendship and win-win cooperation between China and the Arabic states, as well as the Muslim regions, to realize mutual development,” Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said at the opening ceremony of the five-day event at the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Wan Jifei, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said the forum has been held “in the right place” because Ningxia has a large Muslim population, and the region has played a significant role in Sino-Arabic relationships over history.
Ningxia is home to at least 10 percent of China’s 20 million Muslims. It has drawn up plans to expand trade and economic cooperation with the world’s Muslim community.
“We hope the future cooperation between the two sides will not be limited to trade. We hope to strengthen cultural cooperation, based on better mutual understanding of society, education and people,” said Nader Al Dahabi, former prime minister of Jordan.
The five-day forum and fair has attracted more than 6,000 government officials and businessmen from 66 countries, regions and international organizations, including Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu.
“We welcome China’s enterprises to invest in energy and water resources and also in other promising fields, including hi-tech industries, food processing and electrical manufacturing,” said Jaafar Hassan, minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan, at the Summit Meeting of the forum.
China had offered 116 million U.S. dollars of interest-free and preferential loans to the country as of the second quarter this year, Jaafar Hassan said.
The Chinese economy and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are complementary to each other, said Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Saleh, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Trade of the UAE.
“Chinese labor services export had extended from construction to other fields, including medical treatment and sea transportation. More and more Chinese workers can be seen in the UAE. At the same time, China has open its door to the Arab states with its 1.3 billion potential consumers,” he said.
His views were echoed by Su Jing, commercial counselor of the Department of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce of China.
The Arabic states taken as a whole is a large market with a population of 339 million. The states rely on oil and gas production but lack a machinery manufacturing base, while China is a large importer of oil and its machinery exports take up a large market share of the states, Su said.
The total volume of Sino-Arabic trade grew to 132.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2008 from 5.8 billion U.S. dollars in 1996, but fell slightly in 2009 due to the economic crisis, to 107.4 billion U.S. dollars. The trade volume made a rapid recovery in the first six months of this year and reaching 69.1 billion U.S. dollars, he said.
Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said cooperation between China and the Arab states has great potential and a broad future, as two-way trade continues to grow.
As of the end of June, direct investment from China to the Arab states reached 3.78 billion U.S. dollars and the investment fields have extended from resource exploring, food and textile to those including leather manufacturing, automobile assembly and petrochemicals, Hui said.
At the same time, investment from the Arab states to China was 2.15 billion U.S. dollars, covering fields of petrochemicals, food, real estate and investment framework, he said.
Also other sectors which have received investment from the Arab states, including finance, tourism, aviation and new energy sectors, are booming, he said.
Hui said to strengthen mutual cooperation more strategic partnerships need to be developed.