Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri
File picture: UAE's Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

ABU DHABI: China is the UAE’s leading trade partner in terms of non-oil commodities, accounting for 9.7 per cent of its total non-oil trade in 2018, valued at over $43 billion, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, has said.

In an interview with WAM on the occasion of the official visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China as head of a high-level UAE delegation, Al Mansouri said that China was the UAE’s leading source of commodities imports in 2018, accounting for 15 per cent of its imports, valued at over $38 billion. He also pointed out that China is the source of 27 per cent of the UAE’s imports from Asia, and is ranked 11th internationally in terms of receiving non-oil exports and re-exported goods from the UAE. The UAE’s non-oil foreign trade with China in 2018 represented 16 per cent of its total non-oil foreign trade with Asian countries, he added.

He stressed that the UAE is in the list of 25 leading countries that attract Chinese exports and the first in the Arab world, accounting for 29 per cent of Chinese exports to Arab countries. The UAE is China’s most important trade partner in the Arab world, accounting for 26 per cent of total non-oil-foreign trade between China and Arab countries.

27 %

of UAE’s imports from Asia come from China

Al Mansouri explained that the UAE accounts for 36 per cent of China’s export of advanced technology products to Arab countries, and is in the list of the 20 leading countries that accept Chinese exports, as it accounts for 1.1 percent of China’s total international commodity exports. The UAE provided 16 per cent of Arab non-oil exports to China in 2018, he noted.

36 %

UAE’s share of China’s advanced technology exports to Arab world

Strategic partnership

He further said that the UAE’s leadership is keen to develop and advance the country’s bilateral relations with China, to achieve the overall interests of their peoples and create a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Regarding joint future projects, Al Mansouri noted that both countries will witness further cooperation in key areas that serve their development agendas, including renewable energy, space, the knowledge economy, small and medium-sized projects and other vital sectors, as well as major infrastructure and logistics services projects that are being implemented as part of the cooperation plans and development projects of the “Belt and Road Initiative.”

He further added that the relationship between the UAE and China is a model of constructive cooperation based on respect and common interests, which are ideal relations between the second largest international economy and the second largest Arab economy, while continuing that China is the leading trade partner of the UAE and also the country is China’s biggest Arab trade partner, reflecting their deep relations and serious desire to enhance them.

Key hub for marketing

Al Mansouri pointed out that the UAE is a key hub for marketing Chinese products in the region, noting that the largest market for Chinese goods is in Dubai, which is a major regional trade centre and a platform for showcasing Chinese goods and products.

Regarding the growth in number of Chinese tourists visiting the UAE last year, Al Mansouri stressed that the UAE is the leading destination for Chinese tourists in the region, due to its developed modern tourism centres and the historic areas. It is also one of the world’s best tourism destinations in terms of entertainment, culture, sports and shopping, as well as events and festivals, due to the presence of an advanced air transport network covering and connecting all parts of the world. All these factors and more have made the UAE a preferred destination for Chinese tourists, and the availability of over 75 weekly flights between the two countries and their mutual visa-exemption agreement have promoted mutual tourism. The number of hotel guests from China in 2018 amounted to around 1.46 million, and the Chinese market occupied the fourth place in terms of number of hotel guests in the UAE.

Bilateral agreements

“There are many bilateral cooperation agreements signed by our countries to consolidate our comprehensive strategic partnership. During the historic visit of Xi Jinping, President of China, to the UAE in July 2018, 13 cooperation agreements and Memoranda of Understanding were signed, to strengthen our strategic partnership and bilateral cooperation and create new opportunities for joint work in various sectors,” Al Mansouri said.

Regarding the number of Chinese companies, agencies and trademarks in the UAE, Al Mansouri explained, “The UAE has a strong investment environment in terms of available investment opportunities, strategic location, and security and stability. It is also a developed country in terms of infrastructure, services, flexible laws and ease of practicing business. These privileges have encouraged Chinese companies and investors to establish and run their businesses in the UAE, and have made it a regional platform for expansion. The UAE hosts over 4,000 Chinese companies, 327 Chinese trade agencies, and around 6,600 Chinese trademarks registered in 2017, and four leading Chinese banks have opened branches in the UAE.”

Regarding the balance between Chinese investments in the UAE and Emirati investments in China, he noted that China is the seventh leading international investor in the UAE, with Chinese direct investments at the end of 2017 amounting to $4.6 billion. Direct Chinese investments in the UAE from 2013 to 2017 rose by 276 percent, growing four times from $1.2 billion in 2013 to $4.6 billion in 2017. Total Chinese direct investments in the UAE also grew annually by 65 percent at the end of 2017, compared to the end of 2016.

Four main sectors

Al Mansouri clarified that Chinese investments in the UAE include various economic sectors, and are focused on four main sectors, including the wholesale and retail and vehicle-fixing sector, which contributes 48.7 percent of the total direct Chinese investments in the UAE and an annual growth percentage of 101 percent. This is followed by the financial activities and insurance activities sector, which contributes 33.5 percent of the total direct Chinese investments in the UAE and an annual growth percentage amounting to 48.4 percent, followed by the building and construction sector, which contributes eight percent of the total direct Chinese investments in the UAE and an annual growth percentage amounting to 87.7 percent. Finally, the real estate activities sector contributes 7.1 percent of the total direct Chinese investments in the UAE and an annual growth percentage of 29.5 percent.

Al Mansouri added that there are many Emirati companies working across Chinese markets in vital sectors, including ADNOC, Mubadala, Borouge, Emirates Global Aluminium, Emaar, DP World, dnata and the Union National Bank. These are present across important sectors such as energy, renewable energy, maritime operations, financial services, industry, information technology, and hospitality.

Speaking about the UAE’s role in the support to and success of the Belt and Road initiative, Al Mansouri said that the UAE has succeeded in implementing massive infrastructure projects, comprising ports considered to the most technologically advanced in the world, alongside modern and integrated transportation networks of international standards, in addition to its strategic location as a vital centre connecting the east and the west, the north and the south, in a region full of emerging markets which offer promising growth prospects. He affirmed that these factors, among others, place the UAE in a vital position on the Silk Road and as part of the Belt and Road initiative.

Belt and Road Initiative

He added that the Belt and Road initiative, launched by the Chinese President in 2013, represents a developmental strategy, which revolves around communication and cooperation between countries, especially between China and countries across Europe and Asia, and includes two main branches, which are the Land Economic Silk Road Belt and the Maritime Silk Road. He said that through the initiative, Beijing strives to consolidate the trade and economic ties between Asia, Europe and Africa, and pointed out that the UAE looks at this vital global strategic project with extreme interest, whether in terms of strengthening the cooperation bridges between both the friendly countries or at the level of the 60 countries connected to the initiative.

He continued, “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, asserted when he attended the Belt and Road Forum For International Cooperation in Beijing last April, an important message stating that the UAE trusts the Belt and Road initiative and believes in its capability to connect communities, economies, and people, and to motivate growth across several sectors and industries through developed international infrastructure and new international trade roads.”

Historic visit

On the importance of high-level visits between the UAE and China on strengthening cooperation, Al Mansouri said, “The official visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid to China in 2008 and the official visit of His Highness in April 2019; the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2009; followed by another visit by His Highness in 2015 represented a pivotal step in the relations between both countries and strengthened them across all fields, particularly the economic, trade and investment sectors.”

The Minister of Economy said, “We consider the historic visit of Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to the UAE in July 2018 a new step towards strengthening the bilateral relations between both countries and establishing a new age of solid and comprehensive strategic relations across all fields. President Jinping choosing the UAE to be his first destination during his first external visit since his re-election as president by the Chinese National People’s Congress has many connotations, the most prominent of which is the sincere and strong desire to take the relations of both countries to the furthest extent, considering them to be strategic partners. The visit also reflected the Chinese leadership’s appreciation for the UAE, its Wise Leadership and its giving people.”

Regarding the number of agreements and official visits between the UAE and China, Al Mansouri said, “Both countries are connected by an important number of agreements and MoUs, which aid the bilateral cooperation efforts and work on strengthening the partnership aspects, expanding the scope of commercial, economic and cultural exchange, and increasing cooperation across vital fields.”

He added that the number of signed agreements between both countries is valued at over 50 agreements and MoUs from 2010 until H1 2019, the most prominent of which is the economic and technical cooperation agreement, according to which the joint economic committee between both countries was established. This is in addition to the investment protection agreement, double taxation avoidance agreement, cultural cooperation agreement and other agreements. With regard to mutual visits, the same period witnessed the organisation of high-level visits of senior officials, economic delegations, and trade missions, which surpassed 200 visits.

The Minister of Economy asserted that the course of the UAE Chinese relations is witnessing continuous development since the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries on 1st November, 1984. The UAE Embassy in Beijing was launched in March 1987 and since this date, the journey of the relations between both countries began on the basis of mutual interests and continuous coordination.