Dubai eyes key role in trade initiatives

Updated: 2015-05-12 10:34

By MU CHEN(China Daily)

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Emirate wants to be China's partner as 'Belt & Road Initiative' takes shape

Dubai is set to play an important role as the trade, transportation and financial hub for China in the Middle East and Africa as well as be a key partner for the "Belt and Road Initiative".

A high-level delegation of government and business leaders from Dubai is currently in Beijing for the Dubai Week in China from May 9 to 15 and will use the event to showcase the emirate's ties with China and opportunities for future growth.

Ibrahim Al Janahi, deputy chief executive officer of the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority and chief commercial officer of Economic Zones World, told China Daily: "Dubai, with its transportation, financial and legal infrastructure, can act as the gateway for Chinese businesses in the Middle East and the African continent."

JAFZA, which hosts 248 registered Chinese companies, is continuing to have discussions with several others to join the zone and many are in the pipeline for this year, said Al Janahi.

"In particular, we will adopt strategies to help more small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises, which are limited in capacity, to enter the region going forward," he said.

In 2014, China overtook India as Dubai's biggest trading partner with traffic between the two surging 29 percent to $47.6 billion. Much of the Chinese trade into Dubai enters via Middle East's largest port, Jebel Ali, and is destined for re-export elsewhere in the region and beyond. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping have emphasized an important role for trade facilitation and connectivity.

Dubai already plays such a vital role for the region, and is well positioned to further its role in line with the "Belt and Road Initiative", said Cong Hongbin, managing director of Invest Dubai, a subsidiary of the Dubai-based advisory firm Falcon and Associates.

Aside from its maritime infrastructure, Dubai International Airport surpassed Heathrow last year as the world's busiest airport for international passenger business.

Emirates Group, one of the main carriers in the Middle East, which is well-known for its luxury first-class cabins and services, also witnessed stronger relationships and personnel exchanges between the two sides.

Since the carrier started to operate in China in 2004, travel and trade exchanges between the two have increased 10 fold, said Barry Brown, Emirates Group divisional senior vice-president of commercial operations.

As many as 1.3 million Chinese passengers traveled by Emirates in the last financial year, Brown said. The carrier operates 35 weekly flights to three destinations in the Chinese mainland and enjoyed an average load factor of 84 percent in 2014.

On the financial front, the Dubai International Finance Center, a federal financial free zone, is already home to the regional headquarters of China's big four financial institutions: the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp, Agricultural Bank of China Ltd and Bank of China Ltd.

Chirag Shah, chief strategy and business development officer at Dubai International Finance Center, said: "We already have a significant Chinese presence in the DIFC but as China is seeing more financial institutions going international, we can provide the right platform for them to do business in the region." The DIFC enjoys several cooperative agreements with Chinese counterparts, such as a memorandum of understanding its regulatory authority shares with the China Banking Regulatory Commission and the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Last month, the court system in the DIFC announced that it is seeking an agreement with the Chinese courts for mutual enforcement of decisions.