x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Sheikh Abdullah China-bound for meeting on Sino-Arab ties

The UAE will take part in a forum next week to strenghten ties between China and the Arab world.

Beijing // The UAE will take part in a forum next week to strenghten ties between China and the Arab world. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will attend the China-Arab States Co-operation Forum in Tianjin, near Beijing, on Thursday and Friday. Ministers from 21 other Arab countries, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, and senior Chinese ministers are also set to take part in the conference, the fourth of its kind.

Ahmed Hafez, the assistant head of Beijing mission of the League of Arab States, said a range of political and economic issues would be discussed at the meeting, whose theme is "deepening all-round co-operation for common development". "There will be different agreements and co-operation in political, economic, commercial [areas] and trade," he said. "China now is a big aim for the whole world, and part of the world is the Arab countries."

Mr Hafez said ties went beyond the obvious ones of Arab countries exporting oil to China, and of China exporting manufactured goods in the other direction. China, he said, imported large amounts of other materials from the Arab world, including scrap metal. Total trade between China and Arab countries last year was US$132 billion (Dh485bn), he said. Of that, $21bn was between China and the UAE. Ben Simpfendorfer, the author of The New Silk Road: How a Rising Arab World is Turning Away from the West and Rediscovering China, said forums between the Arab world and China were "useful symbols", but did not tend to conclude with significant agreements.

"I guess it lifts [ties] to the level of China and Africa," he said. Of greater value, he said, were links developed by entrepreneurs. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, recently led a delegation of UAE-based entrepreneurs to the southern city of Guangzhou. "That's more useful, that will make much more sense," said Simpfendorfer, who is the chief Asia economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Tianjin already has strong links with the UAE. A $4bn "horse city" is to be developed near the city through a collaboration involving the Dubai-based Meydan Group. dbardsley@thenational.ae