Xi calls for early signing of China-Gulf FTA

By Li Xiaokun and Zhang Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-18 02:45:26

Xi calls for early signing of China-Gulf FTA

 President Xi Jinping meets a delegation from the Gulf Cooperation Council in Beijing on Friday. During talks, he called for the early signing of a free trade agreement between China and the regional bloc.(LIU JIANSHENG / XINHUA)

Free trade negotiation includes oil, development of modern Silk Road

President Xi Jinping called for the early signing of a free trade agreement on Friday between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which in 2013 accounted for 70 percent of the trade volume between China and the Arab League.

"Negotiations on the China-GCC free trade agreement have been in the works for a decade. Both sides have done extensive planning for the agreement,” Xi said during a GCC delegation meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"I hope both sides can sign the agreement at an early date,” Xi said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Earlier on Friday, GCC delegates attended the third round of talks with China in the capital.

The GCC is a political and economic union of six Arab states that border the Gulf — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All six are major oil exporters.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-chaired the Friday negotiations with Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Kuwait holds the council’s rotating presidency this year.

Yang Guang, director of the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the FTA negotiations began in 2004 and has produced a number of major agreements.

"The FTA can help China purchase energy products at lower prices. It also paves the way for Chinese companies to explore the council’s markets,” Yang said. "GCC countries value China as a major market for their petrochemical products. Exports of these products to China can help GCC countries in their industrial development.”

China’s trade volume with GCC countries in 2011 surpassed $100 billion for the first time. In 2012, trade exceeded $150 billion, according to official figures.

Xi said China will make every effort with the GCC to promote the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, two regional economic blueprints the Chinese government is hoping to create along ancient trade routes linking China to the Mediterranean Sea.

Xi said China is paying close attention to the situation in the Middle East and the Gulf region. Beijing supports the GCC countries’ efforts to protect their sovereignty and regional stability as well as the council’s role in international and regional affairs, he said.

The Kuwaiti deputy prime minister told Xi that the GCC highly values its ties with China and expects to promote cooperation in various areas, including the two regional economic blueprints.

Li Guofu, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said "energy trade with Gulf States is closely related to China’s economic security”.

"Almost 60 percent of China’s oil imports come from the Middle East, in which the GCC countries hold a majority,” Li said.

Economic Daily writer Xu Huixi wrote in a commentary published on Friday that strengthening the partnership between China and the GCC is vital.

"GCC countries are very important for China in preventing and cracking down on the three evil forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism in the western part of the country,” Xu said.

Former Chinese ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Hua Liming said China’s ties with the GCC will become "more and more intimate” as China increases oil imports from the Gulf.

"That will benefit China’s relations with the Middle East,” he said.

Most Popular