RIYADH: Saudi Investment Minister Khaled Al-Falih on Sunday announced the launch of a new modern Silk Road connecting the Arab world and China. Falih, speaking at the Arab-China Business Conference held in Riyadh, said it is time for China to become an essential strategic partner of development in the region. The Saudi minister spoke of the growth in trade exchange with China, saying it creates promising opportunities for investments.
On behalf of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan inaugurated the 10th edition of the conference earlier on Sunday, held under the slogan “Cooperation for Prosperity”, with the participation of 23 countries, including Kuwait. In his opening speech, Prince Faisal mentioned China’s role as the region’s largest economic partner with bilateral trade exchange having reached $430 billion in 2022. Prince Faisal underlined the joint willingness of Arab countries and China to develop their partnership and cooperation, based on the outcomes of the forum since it was created.
The Saudi minister added that the gathering’s theme “Cooperation for Prosperity” reflected the paramount significance, great potential and joint visions regarding Arab-Sino investment and trade relations. He commended the conference as an opportunity to promote shared consensus, share expertise and realize growth that could contribute to achieving the prosperity, development and welfare of the people of the region and the world. “Oil demand in China is still growing so of course we have to capture some of that demand,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.
“Instead of competing with China, collaborate with China.” The two nations’ momentum has also raised prospects for a successful conclusion to negotiations for a free trade deal between China and the Saudi Arabia-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), ongoing since 2004. Falih said any agreement would have to protect emerging Gulf industries as the region starts to diversify towards non-oil economic sectors. “We need to enable and empower our industries to export, so we hope all countries that negotiate with us for free trade deals know we need to protect our new, emerging industries,” Falih said, adding he hoped a deal would soon be struck.
The two-day conference is the largest Arab-China gathering for business and investment with participation of more than 2,000 government representatives, CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs. The event is held under the auspices of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and is scheduled to discuss many topics, including investment and financing through the Belt and Road Initiative, the role of mega projects in reimagining future cities, innovative ways to produce clean energy, renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. The conference also deals with the role of tourism and entertainment in diversifying the economy, food security and agriculture as key to unlock development capabilities. – Agencies