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Gibraltar eyes role in B&R push

By Oswald Chan in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-02 09:04

Gibraltar's robust insurance and maritime industry provides an impetus for China to push forward the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe.

Albert Isola, minister for commerce in the government of Gibraltar, pointed out that the United Kingdom overseas territory is an ideal fit for Chinese companies.

"Gibraltar's relatively small size enables it to be nimble and respond quickly to market forces," Isola said. "We have the ability to serve Chinese firms better through greater transparency, information exchange and better engagement than our competitors."

Isola confirmed that Gibraltar had already held talks with Chinese State-owned enterprises.

"We have had detailed discussions with China's SOEs about the possibility of Gibraltar as a forward base and financial services center," he said.

Gibraltar is located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, has a land area of 6.7 kilometers and shares its northern border with Spain.

Financial services, e-commerce, tourism and shipping are the four main drivers of the territory's economy.

Isola said the "captive insurance industry" and the shipping sector in Gibraltar were particularly relevant to the Belt and Road Initiative.

The initiative now covers more than 60 economies across Asia, Europe and Africa, accounting for 30 percent of global gross domestic product or GDP.

By 2050, Belt and Road economies will contribute 80 percent of worldwide GDP growth, according to a forecast by the McKinsey Global Institute.

As Chinese businesses continue to invest heavily overseas in infrastructure projects and overseas acquisitions, insurance protection becomes a priority.

A popular solution is through captive insurance. This allows the parent company, or group, to create a licensed insurance firm to provide cover for itself.

The main purpose for doing this is to avoid using traditional commercial insurance companies.

"With less than 10 captive insurance companies in China, we believe these (Chinese) businesses could make greater use of overseas captive insurers," Isola said.

"This will provide local risk management to protect overseas investments. (They will also be able to) operate in local time zones, establish relationships with local reinsurance companies and local regulators," he added.

Gibraltar is a major offshore captive insurance hub and also has thriving shipping services.

It can offer China safe harbors for international trade under the Belt and Road Initiative.

"With 100,000 ships sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar every year and China's share of world trade increasing, it makes a lot of sense for Chinese ship management companies to use Gibraltar as a base for bunkering, hull cleaning, provision of stores and spares," Isola said.

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