The role of trade and the easy movement of goods around the world has never been more important — even more so as the threat of a tariff-impeded environment is a buffeting wind against the tide of global trade. But the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an essential foil and will ensure a future prosperity for those who embrace and welcome its benefits.
Indeed, the UAE fully embraces the whole concept of the project, with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in Beijing late last week for the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and underlined the integral role of the UAE in boosting international cooperation and strengthening ties between the region and the world. This role is based on its policy of openness and its keenness to build bridges with other nations.
There are long-standing, historic and strategic trade relations between the UAE and China, and these are being strengthened by expanding cultural, commercial and social ties. And the UAE, owing to its strategic location, a natural crossroads between north and south, east and west, and being an international trade hub, can enhance cooperation between partner countries in three continents while also paying homage to the historic Silk Road.
Since it was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative has grown into an ambitious effort to expand regional cooperation and improve connectivity on a global scale. Through infrastructure investment and regional cooperation, the initiative has the potential to accelerate the rate of economic integration and development, as trade costs decline.
The figures are stunning — China’s direct investment in the BRI’s partner countries exceeded $90 billion (Dh330.3 billion), and generated $400 billion. In the past year, Chinese companies invested $15.6 billion in partner countries, reflecting a year-on-year growth of 8.9 per cent.
In the UAE, the project is bringing huge dividends to the national economy. One new element is a megaproject to build a ‘traders market’ in Dubai over an area of 60 million square feet adjacent to the Expo2020 site.
Since the 2015 visit made by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China and the signing of strategic agreements between the two countries, UAE’s trade with China witnessed a surge to $70 million annually, and the UAE plays a vital role as a distribution point for 60 per cent of Chinese exports across the region. It’s a win-win scenario for both.