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China-Arab industrial cooperation gathers steam
Last Updated: 2017-09-08 16:23 | Xinhua
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Yahya Jabri, chairman of a China-Oman industrial park, is briefing investors on Oman's sound business environment at a trade and investment expo in northwest China.

"As a WTO member, we have rolled out a string of favorable policies for investment. Besides oil, we enjoy an advantageous location, a good deepwater port, and complete ship-repairing facility," Jabri says. "Goods transported via Duqm will reach 22 million tonnes in the next decade ... The country will be the gate of North Africa." Oman welcomes more Chinese entrepreneurs to set up joint ventures or solely foreign-owned businesses, he says.

Although still under construction, Jabri's industrial zone is expected to be an exemplary project in China-Arab industrial cooperation. With the foundation stone laid in April, it is designed to develop into a logistics center, commercial harbor and tourist site for the Arabian Sea, covering an area of nearly 1,200 hectares in coastal Duqm.

Investment agreements worth 3.8 billion U.S. dollars were signed between companies of the two sides.

"Total capital poured in will amount to 11 billion dollars in 10 years, and 12,000 jobs will be created for local people," Jabri says.

From the Gulf of Suez in Egypt to Jazan of Saudi Arabia, similar projects were sprouting in Arab countries. After years of stable trade in crude and other goods, the two sides have moved to channel more energy into capacity and technology transfers to forge closer economic ties and reap bigger mutual benefits.

"With huge market potential and unique natural resources, Arab economies are complementary to China," says Chen Zhou, vice president of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. "The new cooperation not only allows China to give full play to its competitive industries but helps Arab countries improve infrastructure and build a more sophisticated economic structure."

Abdulrahman al-Saleh, adviser to the Minister of Housing of Saudi Arabia, said he backed such cooperation as it met the needs of the country to transform the economy. Saudi Arabia released an ambitious plan last year to wean off reliance on oil, and to develop education, the arms industry, real estate and tourism.

At the ongoing China-Arab States Expo held in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, 22 contracts on industrial capacity cooperation were signed to pour 17.1 billion yuan (more than 2.5 billion U.S. dollars) into projects ranging from infrastructure to textile and food processing in countries including Oman, United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

Besides traditional projects on energy and resources, Chinese and Arab businesses have started to explore more sectors, such as chemical industry, telecommunication and manufacturing, says Li Shaotong, an official of the Ministry of Commerce.

The global drive of China's high tech sectors, including equipment manufacturing and clean energy, is promising, Chen says.

Driven by robust industrial cooperation, China-Arab investment is surging. A total of 1.1 billion U.S. dollars of non-financial direct investment was made by Chinese companies in Arab states in 2016, up 74.9 percent year on year.

China has signed agreements on industrial capacity cooperation with 37 countries around the world, including Arab countries, says Liu Xia, an official of the National Development and Reform Commission.

By the end of 2016, two Chinese policy banks had issued loans worth 110 billion U.S. dollars for overseas corporate investment along the Belt and Road, and Chinese banks had set up 62 branches in 26 countries.

Running until Saturday, the four-day biennial expo is a significant platform for China and Arab countries to bolster ties.

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