Spotlight: Experts urge China-Arab cooperation to lessen COVID-19 losses

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, May 23, 2020
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by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, May 23 (Xinhua) -- China and Arab countries can cooperate on various levels to boost their economies and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanese experts have said.

"Arab countries are currently seeking to reduce their dependence on oil-based economies given the volatility in the oil market, which constitutes an opportunity for China to help create industrial and agriculture infrastructure to boost these sectors in the Arab world," Mahmoud Raya, editor-in-chief of the news website China in Arab Eyes, told Xinhua recently.

Raya emphasized that China could explore new investment opportunities in Arab countries, which should further open up the second largest economy in the world to create "more robust Arab-Chinese economic ties."

China-Arab economic and trade cooperation has gained steam in recent years, with the bilateral trade volume between the two sides reaching 244.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, jumping 28 percent year on year. In the first half of 2019, China-Arab trade volume reached 126.7 billion dollars, up 12 percent from the same period in 2018, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Chinese enterprises signed 35.6 billion dollars of new project contracts in Arab countries in 2018, registering an annual increase of 9 percent, while direct investment from Chinese companies in Arab countries totaled 1.2 billion dollars, involving sectors such as energy, infrastructure and manufacturing.

Raya also said that the Belt and Road Initiative has enabled European countries to export their goods to China, and that it could apply to Arab countries by promoting their products through China-Arab exhibitions.

"It is true that COVID-19 disrupted exhibitions this year, but promoting the idea of online exhibitions can even provide access to much wider horizons for a larger number of exhibitors to tap the potential for economic cooperation and open the door to signing more deals," he said.

Pierre Khoury, vice president of the Arab Chinese Cooperation and Development Association, agreed that China and Arab countries should strengthen cooperation to overcome the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The China International Import Expo offers a great opportunity for Arab manufacturers to start building a win-win commercial relationship with their Chinese partners, Khoury said.

"Let's remember that the core value behind the Belt and Road Initiative is this 'win-win' relationship," he said.

Adnan Bourji, director of the Lebanese National Center for Studies, told Xinhua that China is capable of building railway lines connecting Arab countries, which would contribute to building a common Arab market.

He said China has great expertise in fighting poverty and could be of great help to Lebanon in this field. What's more, Chinese universities have offered a number of scholarships to Lebanese students in technology fields.

It is time for Lebanon and other Arab countries to understand and appreciate China's aspiration, Bourji said, which "considers that mankind shares the same future, and that through cooperation and mutual support, we can build a prosperous future for humanity." Enditem

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