The United Arab Emirates and the People’s Republic of China signed a number of agreements and memorandums related to gas and oil exploration in the Emirati Capital Abu Dhabi worth $1.6 billlion.
The two countries also signed an agreement to establish a “trade market” at Dubai Jebal Ali Free Zone sectors, the biggest in the region.
The signing coincided with the state visit of the Chinese president Xi Jinping to the United Arab Emirates which started on Thursday and will last three days as the first leg of an international tour including Senegal, Rawanda and South Africa
The visit by a Chinese president to the UAE is the first since 1989, when former late Chinese president Yang Shangkun visited the capital Abu Dhabi and then late UAE rule Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan visited China in 1990.
Earlier the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) said it awarded contracts worth $1.6 billion for the world’s largest continuous 3D onshore and offshore seismic survey with BGP Inc., a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Company, CNPC.
The two countries also announced the establishment of the first Chinese state-owned financial services firm to be set up in Abu Dhabi’s ADGM financial center.
As both a major energy exporter and a hub for international trade, the UAE is an important part of Xi’s “Belt and Road” initiative to invest in infrastructure linking China by both sea and land to markets in Asia and Europe.
China is the UAE’s second largest trading partner and biggest source of imports. The UAE is the gateway for about 60 percent of China’s exports to the Middle East, and on its own accounts for around a quarter of total Arab trade with China.
Trade reached nearly $54.5 billion in 2017, and more than 1 million Chinese visited the UAE. The UAE aims to double these numbers over the coming period, according to a tweet by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler, on Thursday.
In 2013, Xi outlined the Belt and Road initiative which involves billions of dollars of infrastructure investment to reinvigorate the ancient overland Silk Road trade route and develop a new sea equivalent. The UAE sits close to both the routes.