Bilateral trade between China and the UAE will continue to surge in the coming years on the back of strong relations between the two countries, despite a temporary roadblock caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to top officials.
The UAE is China’s most important trade partner in the Arab world and responsible for 28 per cent of total non-oil trade between China and the region. The Arab world’s second largest economy is also home to thousands of Chinese companies, including those based in free zones.
“In 2019, Dubai’s free zones saw their total trade volumes grow by 11 per cent year-on-year. Free zone trade topped Dh596 billion, making up 43 per cent of Dubai’s total trade during the period, with China remaining Dubai’s largest trading partner with a total trade volume exceeding Dh107bn,” said Thani Al Zeyoudi, minister of state for foreign trade at the UAE Ministry of Economy.
“With nearly 45,000 companies located in free zones across Dubai, employing approximately 390,000 professionals, the free zones account for about 33 per cent of Dubai’s gross domestic product.”
Mr Al Zeyoudi made the remarks while speaking at the first China-UAE Economic and Trade Digital Expo, which was held virtually to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.
The event saw more than 3,000 exhibitors showcase their products virtually using the latest technology including 3D and augmented reality.
“This expo is a practical demonstration of the new road to recovery that the UAE and China are on,” said Gao Yan, chairperson of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.
“At the helm of the Belt and Road Initiative and as a member of the World Trade Organisation, China has contributed more than 30 per cent 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 Covid-19 pandemic has caused the global economy to slide into a recession that is expected to be the worst since the Great Depression, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Economies in the Middle East and Central Asia will shrink by 4.7 per cent this year due to coronavirus and lower oil prices, while growth in China, the second-biggest economy and the country where Covid-19 started, will decelerate to 1 per cent, the IMF said last month.
Global economies are opening up slowly following the lifting of coronavirus-related movement restrictions, which is helping countries increase economic activity.
“This expo gives us an opportunity to increase our bilateral trade across various sectors such as smart metropolitan [cities], education, and travel and tourism," said Ni Jian, China's ambassador to the UAE. "The UAE is China’s seventh largest trading partner and China has continued to maintain its position as the UAE’s largest trading partner."