May 14th, 2010 | China Daily Arab countries seek Chinese help
Beijing has pledged to stabilize energy trade with Arabian countries, while the latter have called for China to help settle issues in the Middle East.
Beijing will continue to stabilize trade in oil, natural gas and related commodities, import more Arabian non-energy products and export more high-tech products, Premier Wen Jiabao told the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum which opened Thursday in China’s northern port city of Tianjin.
“The rights of some countries to use energy to accelerate their development should be respected,” said Wen.
The Arabian countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have been consistent oil suppliers to China, now the second largest oil importer in the world.
Wen also called on both sides to strengthen their cooperation on infrastructure, finance and environment protection.
Trade hit almost $110 billion in 2009 between China and Arabian countries despite the sweeping global financial meltdown – about 100 times more than 30 years ago.
“The robust growth despite the global financial crisis shows that the two economies complement each other and have huge potential for development,” said Wen.
For now, the primary driver of Arab-Asian relations is trade, a partnership that reflects new geopolitical realities and makes sense for Middle Eastern states looking to diversify economic and foreign relations, said the Financial Times in a report last month.
According to Sheng Bin, an economic expert with Nankai University, trade now focuses mainly on commodities and there is still a lot of potential to tap.
“China boasts advantages in service trade and industrial skills, while some of the Arabian countries have advantages in financial capital. Both sides should utilize their advantages and increase their capacity to fight the crisis,” Sheng told Xinhua News Agency.
“Every country is facing difficulties after the financial crisis, and both sides can avail their meeting to consolidate the existing cooperation while pushing for cooperation in some new fields, especially in finance, tourism and education,” said Sheng.
Zhang Xiaodong, deputy chief of the Chinese Association for Middle East Studies, said China and the Arab nations also need to enhance political cooperation, such as in the Palestine-Israel conflict, security in Iraq and a nuclear weapon-free Middle East.
“The Arab nations need China’s help in protecting their rights, as China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. And China hopes to be backed up by Arab nations in certain issues, such as Taiwan, climate change and human rights,” said Zhang.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called on China to exert its influence on the Middle East to help solve the Palestine-Israel conflict.
“China is a reliable partner and the two sides should strengthen cooperation in promoting the Middle East peace process,” said Moussa.
Wen also said that China would work together with Arabian countries to push for earlier settlement of the Middle East conflict.
Foreign ministers and representatives from China and 22 Arab countries attended the two-day event, which closes on Friday.
The forum began in January 2004 when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo. It has since served as a platform for exchanging views between China and the Arab nations and for enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation.
By Wu Jiao and Rong Xiaozheng