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China and Arab states sign $471m worth of agri deals

Corn harvest season in Zhangye, Gansu Province. China has trained 10,000 agricultural officials and staff from 22 Arab League member countries VCG via Reuters
Corn harvest season in Zhangye, Gansu Province. China has trained 10,000 agricultural officials and staff from 22 Arab League member countries
  • Agricultural trade growing
  • Trade worth $5bn in 2022
  • China training Arab nations

A total of 34 deals worth AED1.73 billion ($471 million) were signed at the China-Arab States Expo, promoting cooperation and development in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture has become an important part of China-Arab cooperation, and trade in agricultural products has recorded steady growth, the UAE state-run Wam news agency reported, citing the China Economic Net news portal.

Last year, the trade value of agricultural products between China and Arab countries reached $5 billion, said Li Jinxiang, national chief veterinary officer of the ministry of agriculture and rural affairs, China.

China has established overseas agricultural technology transfer sub-centres in eight countries, including Jordan and Pakistan.

Beijing has promoted dairy cattle embryo transfer technology in Mauritania, set up vegetable growing demonstration areas in Jordan, grown rice in deserts in the UAE and promoted smart irrigation and water-saving technologies in Egypt.

In addition, China has stepped up efforts to train professionals in many Arab states.

As of the end of 2022, China has held nearly 500 training sessions for 10,000 agricultural officials and technical staff from 22 Arab League member countries, covering fields such as desert agriculture, aquaculture and smart agriculture, said Li.

China is the Arab states’ largest trading partner. Trade volume is up from $222.4 billion in 2012 to $431.4 billion in 2022, nearly doubling in a decade. In the first half of this year, China-Arab trade volume reached $199.9 billion.

Two-way investment has expanded. In 2022, China’s direct investment in Arab states increased by $2.62 billion, up 13 percent a year earlier, while the Arab states added $1.05 billion in investment in China, an almost ninefold year-on-year increase.

In the January-June period this year, China’s new direct investment in the Arab world rose $1.44 billion, marking a seven percent increase from a year earlier. In comparison, new investment from Arab countries into China amounted to $2.15 billion.

China-GCC free trade agreement negotiations have entered the “final and critical stage”, Zhang Yiming, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the UAE, said in November last year.

The two sides have agreed on most issues and are putting the final touches on the agreement, Yiming said.

Saudi Arabia remains one of China’s strongest global trade partners, leading Chinese engagement in the construction sector during the first half of 2023, according to the latest Belt and Road Initiative investment report issued by the Green Finance & Development Center at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Chinese president Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative in October 2013 as a global infrastructure development strategy to invest in more than 150 countries and international organisations across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In the Middle East, China established full strategic partnerships with Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran.

Engagement has since expanded well beyond that to include heavy investment in other countries such as Iraq, as well as diplomatic mediation including the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year.