China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum

The 2nd China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum and 2011 China (Ningxia) Investment and Trade Fair opened on Wednesday, 21 September, in the city of Yinchuan, China. The forum and trade fair was created to increase cooperation between China and the Arab States, focusing on the science and technology, tourism, agriculture, finance, publishing, and energy sectors. Jia Qinglin, co-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, began the proceedings at the opening ceremony of the five-day forum, which was also attended by Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of Mauritania.

The event is set to see over 7,000 delegates in attendance, 1,200 of who will come from 76 other countries. Amongst the participants are ten members of the Arab League and five additional Muslim countries. Included in the schedule are the China International Halal Food and Muslim Commodities Fair and a Summit Meeting.

Ningxia, an autonomous region in China and home to the Hui ethnic group, was described as a “melting pot” by Jia Qinglin in his opening speech. Many of those residing in the area have Muslim ancestry and as such the region is acts as the ideal bridge between the Arab nations and China. Jia went on to say that China would promote Chinese investment in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in Arab countries, while developing China’s investment environment to attract Arabian enterprises. To this end, there are plans to offer preferential taxation to businesses from Arab countries, growing Ningxia into a center of logistics, manufacturing, design and exposition.

Amongst the issues to be discussed at the forum is China’s plan to create a free trade zone in Ningxia for Muslim countries. There is also interest in expanding the Halal food industry in China. Other issues that will be considered are financing of construction projects in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other countries of the Middle East, as well as trading in the yuan. Abdullah Ahmad Al Saleh, who is heading the UAE delegation, will be addressing the forum.

In 2010 the trade between China and the member nations of The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) totaled US$ 92.5 billion, making up 63.6% of Sino-Arab trade. There is a push to ensure that there is a balance of trade, thus China will encourage interest in Arab goods during the course of the trade fair.