Middle Eastern nation hopes to be gateway for businesses, travelers in region, says top envoy
The United Arab Emirates will become an increasingly important partner for China, the country’s top diplomat in Beijing said on April 28, through the Middle Eastern nation’s active participation in both the “Belt and Road Initiative”, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
“The Belt and Road is an excellent initiative and the UAE is ready to engage, fully,” said Omar Ahmad Adi Al Bitar, UAE ambassador to China.
Proposed by President Xi Jinping and involving more than 50 countries, including the UAE, the “Belt and Road Initiative” is a vision of international cooperation that spans across the East Asian region to the heart of European continent, passing through the vast hinterland of South and Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
“On the ‘Belt and Road’ project, the UAE can act as an ideal gateway, a platform and a home for businesses, travelers and dwellers”, Al Bitar said.
“(The ancient) Silk Road was a successful model in the past, connecting China and Western countries. It makes sense to revive this experience in today’s world with new elements to modernize the idea.
“It is likely to offer incentives for poorer nations in Asia. Stronger nations should help those achieve more balanced economies. And it reduces the chances of future conflict.”
On the UAE’s joining of the AIIB as a founding member, the ambassador said that as a vibrant trading and commerce center, which is perfectly positioned geographically, the country’s membership will be crucial.
“I would say it will help rejuvenate a declining world economy. We need new tools to manage and cope with the future. The UAE has joined at the right time as a founding member because we understand the potential magnitude of this tool in the future,” he said.
Al Bitar said he saw the UAE’s role in the bank as providing economic and financial experience, and suggested the country could even act as a regional headquarters for the organization.
“We hope China has confidence in the UAE economy and its financial system, so it can be an active founding member,” he said.
“The AIIB will certainly create a new Asian dimension to a more balanced world economy based on just principles and a fair share for all the participants,” said the ambassador.
The UAE’s position as both an air and sea transport hub is key to its involvement in the AIIB, he said.
The UAE Civil Aviation Authority has already proposed the development of an “Air Silk Road” to complement the more traditional land and sea transportation links.
“The ‘Belt and Road’ should comprise land, sea and air components. We look forward to developing the principles of connectivity through aviation,” said the ambassador, himself a former UAE Air Force pilot.
Al Bitar said Dubai’s status, in particular, as a global hub for trade and logistics, represented an attractive opportunity for China and the participants in the “Belt and Road Initiative”.
The UAE announced in April it would join the AIIB as a founding member, noting the new institution will play a pivotal role in promoting Asia’s development and fulfill the infrastructure needs of the Asian continent.
Its active participation in the two China-led Silk Road initiatives will contribute to strengthening the already strong commercial ties between the two countries, Al Bitar said.
Last year, trade between China and the UAE was worth $54.8 billion, an 18.5 percent increase on 2013. There are more than 4,200 Chinese companies operating in the Gulf state.
China and the UAE first established diplomatic ties in 1984, and Dubai－the country’s second-largest member emirate－is now home to 200,000 Chinese, or 10 percent of its population.
China overtook India as Dubai’s biggest trading partner in 2014, with traffic between the two sides now worth $47.6 billion.