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China Daily Website

China, Arab countries see booming trade

Updated: 2012-08-17 13:43
( Xinhua)

BEIJING -- Trade between China and Arab countries has maintained steady growth since 2011, despite regional political unrest.

Trade between China and countries in the Middle East and North Africa totaled $111.78 billion in the first half of the year, a year-on-year growth of 22.1 percent, according to Chinese customs figures published earlier this month.

The figure was $195.9 billion last year, up 34.7 percent from 2010.

Trade between China and Arab countries that were stricken by political turmoil last year notably rebounded in the first half of this year. Sino-Libyan increased by 130 percent to $4.83 billion over the same period last year, the figures indicated.

Li Zhaoxian, deputy head of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said new governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have faced tough tasks in restoring their economies, adding that they are anticipating closer trade relations and more investment from China.

In May, the fifth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was held in the Tunisian city of Hammamet. At the meeting, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said Tunisia expects more Chinese companies to invest in its energy, agriculture and transport sectors.

Trade between China and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the first six months this year increased by 29.1 percent to 77.72 billion U.S. dollars, according to the customs statistics.

GCC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman contributed to about 70 percent of Sina-Arab trade, the figures indicated.

Business cooperation between China and GCC members has great potential, said Zhang Yansheng, general secretary of an expert committee under the National Development and Reform Commission.

China is a major energy importer and producer of machinery, while GCC members are key energy exporters and buyers of machinery, allowing for the creation of a long-term partnership, Zhang said.

However, the unrest in Syria and the Sudan-South Sudan relationship have affected business relations with China. In the first six months, trade between China and Sudan dropped by 64.9 percent, while trade with Syria was reduced by 37.9 percent.

Political unrest has not changed the fact that Arab countries hold an important position in terms of affecting the global political, economic and energy balance, said Yang Honglin, former Chinese embassador to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq.

China has worked to consolidate its business relations with Arab countries. Following a forum for Chinese and Arab small- and mid-sized firms held in Tianjin in July, the third China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum will be held next month in northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region.