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Boosting bilateral links with Bahrain

By YUAN SHENGGAO | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-18 09:43

According to scholars and government officials, China's economic and trade ties with Bahrain, championed by the tangible growth of the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Arab States Expo, will continue to grow stronger in traditional sectors and lead to broader prospects in emerging areas.

Wang Shoujun, dean of the Belt and Road School of Beijing Normal University, said: "China and Bahrain have made notable progress in political mutual trust and share the vision to seek common growth. And despite the international landscape becoming increasingly complex and volatile, there are still new growth areas for them to develop."

As China and Bahrain intensify their efforts to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and strengthen collaboration in areas of mutual interest such as manufacturing, transportation and energy projects, they are poised to broaden economic cooperation, said Nie Pingxiang, a research fellow with the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Going beyond the traditional focus on trade and investments primarily centered around energy and natural resource-related sectors, Nie said new initiatives will extend into a broader range of fields, including the green economy, 5G technology, artificial intelligence, big data and aviation.

China and Bahrain saw their trade value soar 13.9 percent year-on-year to $1.2 billion in 2022, according to data from China's General Administration of Customs.

China mainly ships construction machinery, new energy buses and passenger cars, vessels, manufacturing equipment, steel, textiles, furniture, computers, smartphones, garments and household appliances to the West Asian island nation in the Persian Gulf. In addition to petroleum products and natural gas, Bahrain's exports to China include aluminum ingots, chemical products, mechanical appliances and spices.

Over the years, as it began diversifying its trade, Bahrain signed numerous agreements, protocols and memoranda of understanding with China to reinforce their partnership and collaboration across all fields, said Mohamed Ghassan Mohamed Adnan Shaikho, Bahraini ambassador to China.

"Today, oil represents less than 20 percent of our GDP and over 80 percent is in non-oil industries," he said.

"Thanks to Bahrain's efforts in streamlining commercial procedures to enhance the kingdom's attractiveness, the country now boasts the region's best value operating costs with a highly competitive taxation system and a highly skilled bilingual local workforce."

Following a year of steady economic growth in 2022, the Bahraini government adopted a three-year National Labor Market Plan in July to create more employment opportunities for its citizens, increase the private sector's contribution to the country's economic growth, promote local and foreign investment, align educational outputs with the needs of the labor market and strengthen the existing regulatory framework.

Last year, Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group signed a cooperation agreement with First Motors, a subsidiary of Bahrain's Al Zayani Investments Group, making the latter the designated dealer for Geely's auto products in the country, according to information released by economic and commercial office of the Chinese embassy in Bahrain.

And Zayani Motors, another subsidiary of Al Zayani Investments Group, has partnered with Hongqi, the high-end brand of China FAW Group, a State-owned automaker based in Changchun, Jilin province, to distribute Hongqi-branded vehicles in Bahrain.

As more Chinese companies have expanded their market presence in Arab countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in recent years, Zheng Jianbang, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People's Congress, said China is willing to work with Arab states to build a strategic energy partnership featuring mutual benefits and long-term friendship, as well as explore the possibility of a renminbi settlement for the oil and gas trade.

Zheng said China will further promote the "oil and gas plus" cooperation model, expand oil and gas cooperation regarding upstream field development, engineering services, storage, transportation and refining, and advance clean, low-carbon and green cooperation with Arab states as part of efforts to maintain the security and stability of the global energy supply chain.

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