China and UAE to Step up Trade, People-to-People Synergies in the Transition to a Digital Economy

DUBAI – Bilateral trade between China and the UAE will continue to surge in the coming years due to the strong trade relations and people to people synergies between the two countries as they transition to the digital economy. High-level panellists at the first China-UAE Economic and Trade Digital Expo, hosted by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and organised by Hala China in partnership with the China International Exhibition Centre Group Corporation (CIEC), remained optimistic that the pandemic was only a temporary roadblock and that the two countries would bounce back together shortly.

Among the panellists on the UAE side were   Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade at the UAE Ministry of Economy,   Dr Mohammed Al Zarooni, Secretary-General of the Dubai Free Zone Council, and Huda Buhumaid, Board Member of Hala China, among others. More than 300 VIP guests and dignitaries dialled in remotely from across China and the UAE for the first virtual event of its kind.

The event’s value in advancing the bilateral relationship between the UAE and China was demonstrated through the speeches of both   Dr Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri, the UAE Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and   Ni Jian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the UAE.

Since the widespread disruption of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, large scale events have taken to online mediums through accelerated digitalisation. The debut expo looks to carry out a digital feat with over 3,000 exhibitors who are showcasing their latest products virtually through 3D – AR technology to fast-track efforts by the two nations to promote bilateral trade.

Dr Al Zeyoudi stated: “The UAE is China’s most important trade partner in the Arab world and is responsible for 28% of total non-oil trade between China and the Arab countries. Currently, the UAE is home to over 4,000 Chinese companies, including those based in free zones. Apart from that, 404 Chinese trade agencies and 8,782 Chinese trademarks were registered in the UAE as of 2019.”

The opening ceremony of the exhibition, hosted by Zhang Shenfeng, Vice Chairman of CCPIT, began with a speech by Gao Yan, Chairperson of CCPIT, who said: “This expo is a practical demonstration of the new road to recovery that the UAE and China are on. At the helm of the Belt and Road Initiative and as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), China has contributed more than 30% to the world’s economy. This pandemic has only put a temporary stop to the world, and this is a start as the world readies itself once again for businesses to open.”

The address was followed by a welcome note by  Ni Jian to greet exhibitors, attendees and dignitaries from the UAE and China. He said: “We have a shared history of over 2,000 years. The recent visits in 2018 by President Xi Jinping to the UAE and the visit of  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to China have further strengthened this relationship.

“This expo gives us an opportunity to increase our bilateral trade across various sectors such as Smart Metropolitan [cities], Education, and Travel and Tourism. The UAE is China’s seventh largest trading partner and China has continued to maintain its position as the UAE’s largest trading partner.”

The speakers acknowledged that Hala China has risen quickly to become a key driver of strengthening bilateral, cultural, trade and socioeconomic ties between China and the UAE.

Speaking next,  Dr Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri welcomed the audience to the first digital trade expo, and commended the dedication of both nations to bilateral trade and growth, despite the crisis.  Al Dhaheri said: “The global digital economy is intensifying at this time, as so much activity migrated online during the COVID-19 crisis. Data flows and digital services delivery, particularly across borders, have played a critical role in the pandemic response. From shopping to culture to doing business and being social, we have learned lessons that we will take forward, which makes the First China-UAE Economic and Trade Digital Expo very topical and timely.”

Huda Buhumaid, Board Member of Hala China, in her address, celebrated the digital feat of the exhibition, and said: “Between 2018 and 2019, the two-way trade between China and the UAE grew by 16% to exceed AED184 billion. And, on the other side, the UAE’s continued efforts to diversify its economy are a notable aspect of this trade relationship. In 2019, the UAE’s non-oil exports to China grew from AED5.1 billion to AED8.4 billion.”

A key industry leader in the exhibition, Emirates too commented on its participation in the digital expo. Orhan Abbas, Senior Vice President-Commercial Operations, Far East at Emirates, said: “China is a very important market for Emirates and a vital part of our network. As the first airline to establish non-stop connectivity between the Middle East and mainland China in 2002, with freighter operations to Shanghai followed by passenger services in 2004, we are pleased to participate in this conference and look forward to continued cargo services, plus the resumption of passenger flights to China.

“Since we started our operations to mainland China 15 years ago, we have flown approximately 16 million passengers to and from Dubai and are now offering more than 2,000 tonnes of cargo capacity weekly in both directions through our 11 dedicated and weekly freighter services. Both cargo and passenger services have contributed significantly to the strong and growing trade and tourism ties between China and the UAE and they are poised to grow further in the decades ahead. Throughout the pandemic, we continuously innovated our products and services to facilitate the movement of goods between the two countries and have supported import and export activities that have contributed to sustaining global and local economies. With the UAE being home to 4,000 Chinese companies registered in Dubai and an estimated 200,000 Chinese citizens, we are ready to serve our customers with travel and cargo products and services to meet their needs.”

China’s overall direct investment in the UAE reached AED2.4 billion between January and September 2019, a year-on-year increase of 171%. A key forum at the exhibition covers Investment and Free zones.

The largest free zone in China, Hainan Free Trade port was represented by Li Yufei, Deputy Director-General of the Office of the Free Trade Port, who introduced the free zone’s offerings and announced a supportive ecosystem for business. He said: “It is our goal to support and promote free trade growth and translate great opportunities. In our first five months, we witnessed a 142% increase in registrations of new companies and to help meet our requirements, we encourage the participation of local companies and practice zero tax in trade. To encourage foreign trade, we allow visa exemptions for 59 countries and tourists are welcome without visa for up to three days.”

Following this address,  Dr Mohammed Al Zarooni addressed the continued resilience of the shared economy doing a time of uncertainty and said: “In 2019, Dubai’s free zones saw their total trade volumes grow by 11% year-on-year. Free zone trade topped AED596 billion, making up 43% of Dubai’s total trade during the period, with China remaining Dubai’s largest trading partner with a total trade volume exceeding AED107 billion. With nearly 45,000 companies located in free zones across Dubai, employing approximately 390,000 professionals, the free zones account for about 33% of Dubai’s GDP.”

Gao Yan, Chairperson of CCPIT declared the expo open and the ceremony concluded with a presentation by He Cailong, President of CIEC, who walked attendees through the 3D light model function that facilitates the interactive 3D display of products by each exhibitor, provided free of charge to those registered. He Cailong, demonstrated the capabilities of the technology being adopted by the expo for virtual meetings and business match-making based on data analysed by the system.

The seven-day virtual event highlights emerging opportunities in Smart Metropolitan [cities] and Big Data, Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicles, Modern Agriculture, Free zone/Finance and Investment, New Building Materials, Textile and Fashion, Education, Healthcare Supply, and Travel and Tourism, through a series of virtual exhibitions and discussions with keynote speakers.

To register as a visitor, click here:  http://cn-uae.ccpit-expo.com

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