Thu 20-02-2020 14:34 PM
By Binsal Abdulkader
ABU DHABI, 20th February, 2020 (WAM) -- Bilateral trade between China and the UAE reached US$34.7 billion in the first nine month of 2019, a 6.01 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018, according to a top Chinese diplomat.
"Our major economic and trade cooperation projects are progressing smoothly," Ni Jian, the Chinese Ambassador to the UAE, told Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.
"In recent years, China and the UAE have maintained frequent high-level exchanges, and our cooperation in political, defence, economic, cultural, people-to-people and technological spheres has been elevated significantly across the board," he noted.
Of the US$34.7 billion bilateral trade in the first three quarters of 2019, China’s exports to the UAE amounted to US$23.5 billion, up 9.94 percent, and China’s imports from the UAE were to the tune of US$11.23 billion, down 1.36 percent, compared to the same period in 2018, Jian said.
The slight decrease in value of imports from the UAE was due to lower oil price in 2019 than in 2018, the envoy explained, adding that as China and the UAE use different statistical methods for bilateral trade, the figures from both sides may differ.
In July 2019, WAM quoted Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, as saying that China was the UAE’s leading trade partner in terms of non-oil commodities, accounting for 9.7 percent of its total non-oil trade in 2018, valued at over US$43 billion.
The UAE’s non-oil foreign trade with China in 2018 represented 16 percent of its total non-oil foreign trade with Asian countries. The UAE is China’s most important trade partner in the Arab world, accounting for 26 percent of total non-oil-foreign trade between China and Arab countries, according to Al Mansouri.
The Chinese Ambassador said that between January and September 2019, China’s overall direct investment in the UAE reached US$660 million, a year-on-year increase of 171 percent, which also accounted for 54 percent of China’s investment in all 22 members of the Arab League.
"China-UAE trade and investment are expected to maintain the momentum of rapid growth throughout 2020 and beyond," he affirmed.
Chinese companies in the UAE have been growing leaps and bounds, especially at a time when the bilateral relations are thriving and the UAE has become an important partner in the ‘Belt and Road’ cooperation, the ambassador noted.
Of between 4,000 and 6,000 Chinese companies in the UAE, most of them are based in Dubai. Many large Chinese corporations have also stepped up their interest and participation in the UAE market, the diplomat said.
Jian highlighted the importance of the visit His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China in July 2019, noting that it achieved fruitful outcomes and further consolidated the political and strategic mutual trust between two countries.
"Chinese companies signed the contracts to undertake the design and construction of Etihad Rail [Stage 2], which is the highlight of our bilateral practical cooperation in 2019," he affirmed.
"Our cooperation in various areas such as infrastructure development, industrial capacity, engineering, investment and banking, has also deepened, further substantiating the China-UAE comprehensive strategic partnership," he emphasised.
An estimate of over 1.2 million Chinese tourist arrivals in the UAE in 2019 shows the thriving cultural and people-to-people exchanges between both countries, Jian pointed out.
"With the Expo 2020 Dubai to be hosted later this year, the UAE is expected to attract more Chinese visitors and add more vigour to our cultural exchange," he affirmed.
The UAE hosts the largest number of Chinese businesspeople, workers and tourists in the Middle East – estimated at over 200,000 – and most of them live in Dubai and Sharjah, the envoy noted.
A UAE initiative named 'Youth Ambassadors Programme' has organised Emirati students’ visits to China for several consecutive years. After China Scholarship Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Khalifa University, more Chinese students are expected to pursue higher education in the UAE, the ambassador said.
The interest in Chinese language is rising in the UAE with the initiative of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to teach Chinese in 200 UAE schools, he said.
Now there are over 200 educators teaching the Chinese language in more than 60 Emirati schools, and 50 more schools are scheduled to teach Chinese by September this year, Jian revealed.
Many Chinese art groups come to perform in the UAE. "Our plan to open a Chinese Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi is also in progress," the diplomat revealed.