x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE and China forge diamond links

China and Middle East aim to boost relations across the jewellery and diamond industry.

A 478-carat Lesotho diamond, one of the largest in the world, named
A 478-carat Lesotho diamond, one of the largest in the world, named "the light of Leseng" was revealed at the Middle East-China Diamond and Jewellery Summit at the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai. Retailers at the summit said the industry is set for expansion in emerging markets.

DUBAI // China and the UAE have linked up for a massive push into the diamond and jewellery trade. Hundreds of delegates from around the world gathered in Dubai today for the first Middle East-China Diamond and Jewellery Summit at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).

The two-day conference aims to boost relations between China and the Middle East across the entire jewellery and diamond industry. Participants gathered with a common objective to capitalise on the strengths of these emerging markets as the more developed markets experience a slowdown. Officials with the DMCC pushed the massive potential of the two emerging markets even as western economies brace for a slowdown.

"The world economy is slowing - one can't deny it and shouldn't deny it," said David Rutledge, the chief executive of the DMCC. "For the foreseeable future, China will be the largest vehicle of global economic growth, especially once we come out of this slow period." Dubai's diamond trade witnessed record growth last year with an estimated Dh41.2 billion (US$11.2bn) in sales. Polished diamond imports to Dubai increased last year by 73 per cent to hit Dh13.5bn, driven by increased trade from India and Belgium. The Middle East accounts for 20 per cent of the global consumption of diamonds and jewellery.

A similar story continues to unfold in China, with retail sales growing by 12.8 per cent this year, despite news last week that the country's GDP growth slowed to 9 per cent in the third quarter from 10.1 per cent in the second term. Chinese retail sales of gold, silver and jewellery rose by 43.6 per cent in August this year, compared with the same month a year ago. "With the world financial system in shambles, the time has come when the Middle East, China and India as well can work together to form a new economic order," explained Vincent Chow, the group general manager of Chow Sang Sang Holdings International, the parent company of Chow Sang Sang, China's largest jewellery retailer.

In what is being hailed as a "new-age Silk Road", delegates at the show cited strengthened ties between China and the Middle East in industries far beyond jewellery. The GCC provides 25 per cent of China's oil imports. Since 1997, the annual growth rate of imports from China averaged 14 per cent. According to Dubai World's statistics department, non-oil trade between Dubai and China touched Dh71.2bn last year, up from Dh48.4bn the previous year. The Chinese government has targeted $100bn in total trade with the Middle East by 2010 - up from $51.3bn in 2005.

So prominent is trade with China that in 2004 Nakheel developed Dragon Mart, a Dh900 million shopping complex in International City and home to the largest trading hub for Chinese products outside China. Delegates from both regions said the sheer size of China's population was the major driving force behind growth of the global luxury goods industry, in particular. China accounts for 18 per cent of all global luxury consumption and that is expected to grow to 29 per cent by 2015, according to the DMCC.

"Gold consumption in China is second in the world and it has the biggest consumption of diamonds in the whole world," said Wang Weiwei, the deputy secretary general of the Gemology Association of China. "There is a great vision for the Middle East and China, and co-operation will certainly grow." vsalama@thenational.ae