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Country ups business ties with Middle East nations

By ZHONG NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-07 10:03
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Saudi conductor Tharaa Ali, opens the door of a high-speed train ferrying pilgrims to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, on January 22, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Prompted by closer business and political ties, companies from China and the Middle East have expanded many programs in the areas of logistics and infrastructure development to bolster bilateral trade and deepen cooperation in cross-border e-commerce, said business executives and market watchers.

They said strong purchasing power in the Middle East, China's cost-effectiveness and supply chain reliability are pushing a growing number of companies from both sides to look at areas like modern logistics, green growth, trade in services and cross-border e-commerce businesses in recent years.

Ajlan & Bros Holding Group, or ABHG, a Saudi Arabia-based conglomerate, has been heading in that direction. The company plans to expand its market presence in more logistics markets in the Middle East by cooperating with its Chinese partners.

AJEX Logistics Services, a joint venture between ABHG and Chinese logistics service provider SF Express, announced in late January that it had launched several new services for customers in the United Arab Emirates in line with its strategic growth plans.

Its customers currently are able to enjoy domestic and international end-to-end integrated logistics services connecting business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients across the UAE, the markets of the China-Gulf Cooperation Council and internationally.

Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the GCC is a political and economic union of six Arab states that border the Persian Gulf. The countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, some of which are considered among the world's top countries for fossil fuel exports.

New services available include domestic and e-commerce express solutions, which offer same-day and next-day delivery services across all seven emirates for B2B and B2C customers within the UAE, international road express connecting the UAE to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and international road services to the GCC, Egypt and Jordan, in addition to worldwide freight forwarding and cold chain solutions.

AJEX's expansion plans for 2023 in the UAE include opening a fourth facility located near Dubai International Airport to support its operations and adding a further 50 vehicles to its fleet by the end of the first quarter. It plans to expand its fleet to 100 vehicles by the end of 2023.

"Since the start of our operations in the UAE in 2022, we have been pursuing a bold growth strategy as part of our wider Middle Eastern expansion plans," said Nabeel Alkharabsheh, general manager at AJEX Logistics Services for the UAE.

With mature and practical operational solutions provided by SF Express, he said AJEX has demonstrated the strength of its operations and logistical expertise, successfully securing a client base that includes diverse sectors including e-commerce, fashion retail, electronics, cosmetics, automotive and construction in the UAE.

"With the increasingly close economic and trade exchanges between Saudi Arabia and China, we are looking forward to conducting in-depth exchanges with more Chinese companies, as well as reinforcing cooperation in emerging fields such as 5G, artificial intelligence, big data, biotechnology, financial technology and automation," said Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Alajlan, ABHG's deputy chairman.

China has been keen to assist Saudi Arabia in charting a new path of economic diversification and synergizing the Belt and Road Initiative after its government unveiled its Saudi Vision 2030 in 2016.

The Arab country's strategic framework aims to cut dependence on oil and transform the kingdom into a leading industrial powerhouse and a global trading hub, said Lin Meng, director of the Modern Supply Chain Research Institute, which is part of the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

For instance, King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, was included in the Gulf China Service in December 2021, which is a weekly service connecting central and southern China to the Gulf region — launched by Singapore's Pacific International Lines — in November 2021.

The move, aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the port and increasing trade between the two countries, has effectively shored up maritime links and generated more investment and cooperative opportunities with other BRI economies, she said.

"China and Arab states are natural partners for BRI cooperation and enjoy broad collaboration prospects as they are highly complementary in trade and economy," said Mao Xiaojing, director of the institute for West-Asian and African studies under CAITEC.

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