Dubai: After years of strong relations with Europe and the US, China is paying more attention to the emerging economies of the world, including the Gulf region, where the UAE is currently the Asian giant's biggest trade partner, a senior official at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said yesterday.
In an interview with Gulf News in Dubai during his visit to the UAE heading a four-member delegation, Johnson Liu, Deputy Director-General of the China Foreign Trade Centre, said, "We don't focus on one single region."
China, one of the biggest economies, is paying more attention to emerging economies, and is seeking to expand in "Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and the Gulf region," he replied to a question on China's trading priorities in the near future.
In the past, he explained, trade volume with the US and Europe was "very huge", but it started to decrease, particularly after the 2008 international financial crisis. Though still reflecting good trade relations, the scale started to tip in favour of the emerging economies, he said.
For example, "the UAE is the largest export market for China in the region and the Middle East," said Liu. Also, China is the second largest trading partner of the UAE after India.
Bilateral trade volume in 2010 reached $25.69 billion (Dh94.53 billion) a 21 per cent increase over 2009, official figures show. Chinese exports to the UAE reached $21.4 billion, and UAE exports to China hit $4.45 billion.
China's main imports from the UAE are oil products, natural gas and aluminium products. The UAE imports machinery, textiles and hi-tech products from China.
Liu's six-day-visit to the UAE, which started last Wednesday in Abu Dhabi and will include Sharjah today, aims to boost UAE participation in the second half of the biannual Canton Fair, scheduled for next autumn.
The Chinese delegation's schedule includes talks with senior officials at the Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah as well as officials at the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
Liu expressed satisfaction with the feedback he received from UAE officials and business community figures about the Canton Fair and their suggestions.
Inaugurated in 1957, the Canton Fair is China's largest trade fair.
"It is the window to China's foreign trade," said Liu. The fair is held twice a year — in spring and autumn.
The fair has three sections. The first section features machinery, electronics, building and industrial materials and hardware. The second section is devoted to daily-use products and home furnishings, and the third includes textiles products, shoes, bags and medical and food products.
According to official figures, in April the 109-section fair received 299 buyers from the UAE. The international buyers totalled 208,406, including scores of international retailers such as Carrefour and Walmart.
Asked whether China is concerned with the growing competition from other Asian countries seeking a share in the markets of the Middle East, Liu said his country's economy has been growing "for quite a long time" and has established itself as "one of the main factory centres in the world."
"Most of the Asian countries sent their representatives to the Canton Fair" he said. Asian buyers constituted nearly 55 per cent of the participants in the fair.