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China-GCC free trade agreement in ‘final and critical’ stage

China's envoy Zhang Yiming said that it hopes to reach a mutually high-standard agreement on free trade
  • China-Arab Summit will be leaders’ first face-to-face talks since Covid
  • UAE is an important gateway for Chinese enterprises to ‘go global’
  • Plans to work together in energy, biomedicine and high-tech innovation

The China-GCC free trade agreement negotiations have entered the “final and critical stage”.

The two sides have agreed on most issues and are putting the final touches on the agreement, according to WAM, the UAE state-owned news agency, citing a top Chinese diplomat.

China hopes to reach a high-standard free trade agreement in the end and highly appreciates the UAE’s support for the same, said Zhang Yiming, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China.

The China-Arab Summit, which will be held in Saudi Arabia in December this year, will be an important milestone in the history of China-Arab relations, he said.

This will be the first face-to-face summit between Chinese and Arab leaders since the coronavirus pandemic.

The envoy said that China-UAE bilateral trade exceeded $64 billion during the first eight months of 2022, a 27.93 percent increase year-on-year.

“China has become the UAE’s largest non-oil trading partner in the world, and the UAE remained China’s second-largest trading partner and the largest export market in the Arab region,” he added.

Yiming emphasised that China’s Belt and Road Initiative in recent years is highly consistent with UAE’s “Projects of the 50”, and the co-operation between the two sides is getting increasingly strategic, pioneering and innovative.

Underscoring the UAE’s role as a financial centre and a major hub of the Belt and Road Initiative, regional aviation and transportation, Yiming said it is an important gateway for Chinese enterprises to “go global” and a popular destination for Chinese tourists.

As China and the UAE hold the world’s top two largest sovereign wealth funds, Yiming hoped that the two sides will strengthen cooperation in investments, currency exchanges and digital Chinese currency.

He added that they would play a vital role in promoting cooperation in new energy, biomedicine and high-tech innovation enterprises.

Aerospace cooperation

The aerospace authorities of China and the UAE recently signed a memorandum of understanding on the mission of the Rashid lunar rover, which has become the most-searched news on social media in China, Yiming said.

“There will be a series of space cooperation in the future. Our high-tech [work] in artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunication and genetic technology is making good progress.”

Air connectivity and tourist traffic between both countries are also growing after the pandemic.

Yiming said the number of direct flights between China and the UAE has increased significantly from one to two flights a week at the pandemic’s peak to 26 weekly flights, adding that the frequency will continue to increase.