The UAE has come a long way from its origins as a pearling industry centre in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In just over four decades, our nation has taken a giant leap forward to become what it is today: an entrepreneurial success story with world-class infrastructure.
Within the big picture of this success story, Abu Dhabi has become the bedrock for industrialisation and trade, not only in the UAE, but across the region. If we zoom in even farther, within the emirate, our progress in the trade and maritime ports sectors – Khalifa Port has now established itself as the world’s second-fastest growing container port – as well as Khalifa Industrial Zone and the recently launched Khalifa Port Free Trade Zone, that collectively stand as living testimony to this.
In this context, few projects have attracted more attention or expectation from the trade industry than the proposed Belt and Road Initiative – also known as One Belt, One Road – launched four years ago by the Chinese president Xi Jinping. The scale of its infrastructure programme is a feast in itself. According to McKinsey, it could potentially cover 65 per cent of the world’s population, one-third of global GDP and a quarter of all the goods and services in the international economy.
The ambition of this initiative, going from the physical road (“the Belt”) to its 21st-century maritime and shipping leg (“the Road”), goes far beyond creating huge physical connections between East and West. As Mckinsey also says: “It aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation”.
Coming on the heels of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, hosted by the Chinese government in May, there is new momentum as the Belt and Road enters a more detailed development and delivery stage. This momentum will benefit the already strong bilateral relationships between the UAE and China.
China is the UAE's second largest trading partner. As part of Beijing's drive to forge closer commercial and political ties with the Middle East, our countries established last year a US$10 billion joint investment fund, the UAE-China Joint Investment Fund, managed by Mubadala Capital's sovereign investment partnership team.
Last September, China's Cosco Shipping Ports announced the establishment of a dedicated container terminal at Khalifa Port.
The new terminal, currently under construction, will enhance the UAE and Abu Dhabi's role as a key logistics and trading hub and will also serve to further diversify the UAE's dynamic and growing economy.
The terminal is expected to almost double Khalifa Port's capacity in container transportation by adding 2.4 million TEU a year to Khalifa Port's existing capacity of 2.5 million.
As good news never comes alone, under the umbrella of the UAE-China Trade Fund, the emirate of Abu Dhabi, through Abu Dhabi Ports, and Jiangsu Province will mark another major milestone that will be announced soon, deepening trade links between the two countries and rapidly accelerating the potential of maritime trade as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Located just north-west of Shangai, the Jiangsu province’s history and development has been closely linked to silk production. Since the times of the Silk Road, Jiangsu Province has been a commercial, political and cultural centre. Today, it is one of the wealthiest provinces in China with a GDP comparable to that of Switzerland, and is a hub for electronic equipment, chemicals and textiles.
Beyond any short-term commercial opportunities, the UAE’s and China’s long-tem economic agendas have common touch points. China is becoming a leader in renewable energy, while the UAE is actively diversifying its economy to prepare for the post-oil era.
Moving forward, the ambition is to focus less on fossil fuel and more on manufactured imports and high-tech joint ventures in sectors like financial services, real estate and renewable energy.
Both our countries have been blessed with a strong foundation for success. Although our stories differ, it is the same vision and dynamism, the same ambition to overcome obstacles, which brings us together.
Our ambition is to become a linchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative. From our side, Khalifa Port, Khalifa Port Free Trade Zone and Kizad are ready to take centre stage, creating access to new markets, bringing innovation and new products and services for the UAE, and delivering on the potential of our shipping, industrial and logistics industry.
Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi is the chief execuive of Abu Dhabi Ports