Business / Economy

UAE can play unique role in the "Belt and Road" initiatives

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-04-14 10:44

DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently joined the Beijing-championed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member.

The Gulf Arab state has also been trying to play a unique role in China's "Belt and Road" initiatives by expanding its industrial free zones and markets.

Dubai, rich in business hubs like ports, airports and industrial free zone, is considered the gateway to global trade of UAE's seven sheikhdoms. For years, UAE has been the largest export market for China in the North Africa and West Asia region.

Mohammed Al-Gergawi Fahad Al-Gergawi, CEO of Dubai's foreign direct investment office, said the UAE had itself "perfectly positioned" to be part of the new belt and Road initiatives, which have been put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Dubai has a supportive business environment... and that makes the emirate attractive regarding perspective for the new silk road, " said Alison Burns, regional head of precious metals for the Middle East and North Africa at ICBC Standard Bank in Dubai. Standard Bank has been a long-time market participant, bringing producers of physical gold in Africa and buyers in Central and East Asia together.

In relation to logistics and transport, Dubai international airport became last year the world's busiest airport in terms of international passengers, catering 71 million people. Its capacities will be expanded this year to serve 90 million passengers.

Some 90 percent of passengers flying to Dubai use the city as a hub for connecting flights as the emirate is located strategically between Africa and Europe on the one hand and central and East Asia on the other hand.

"From Dubai, you can indeed reach two thirds of the global population within two hours flight time," said Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai airports.

Sir Tim Clark, president of Dubai's state-owned carrier Emirates Airline, told Xinhua he would like to fly to more cities in China, Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, could be an interesting destination for connecting Dubai to tourism and trade in central China, he said. Xi'an was in ancient times the starting point of the old silk road.

As of now, Emirates flies with an Airbus A380 super-jumbo to Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Guangzhou. Since Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi started flying to Bejing in April 2008, the state-owed carrier added direct flights to Shanghai and Chengdu to its network, while cargo flights go to Chongqing and Guangzhou.

Data compiled by global aviation body IATA show that in 2015, Middle East air traffic growth in cargo and passengers outperformed global growth mostly because the region's linking function between the continents and as a launchpad for traveling to the Silk road countries and the Far East in particular.

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