Lebanon keen to boost China trade ties

Published May 27th, 2015 - 01:35 GMT

Lebanon is keen on enhancing trade relations with China, Prime Minister Tammam Salam told the Arab-Chinese Businessmen Conference Tuesday, vowing that Beirut would be a “reliable” partner. “China has become Lebanon’s top trading partner over the last two years,” Salam told the conference, held at the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut. “We expect this partnership to expand and strengthen given the new prospects for cooperation.”

“Our pleasure has been doubled since it coincided with the 60th anniversary of the signing of the first trade deal between Lebanon and China,” he told the businessmen.

“We are sure that wisdom will prevail over extremism and fighting factors, and that moderation and consensus and harmony will prevail over ... aggression and violence,” he added. “This is the only rational way to achieve the interests of all.”

Dubbed “Building the Economic Belt of the Silk Road,” the forum was held to encourage stronger Arab-Chinese investment cooperation in addition to promoting trade partnership for “the Belt and the Silk Road.”

The Silk Road, or roads, was a network of overland trade routes that linked China with the Mediterranean. From the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an, now Xi’an, the Silk Road went through China’s narrow Hexi corridor, before spreading south to India, present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, or further west to Samarkand, Bukhara, Persia and the eastern Mediterranean.

Salam said Lebanon was looking forward to having a very active role in the economic belt of the Silk Road due to its strategic location which links Arab countries with the rest of the world.

“Also, the presence of the Lebanese diaspora all over the world is considered a great opportunity to build trade relations with different countries,” he said.

Salam said Lebanon has managed to maintain an acceptable growth rate despite the difficult political phase the country is going through.

“This fact, which confirms our ability to work in the most difficult circumstances, makes Lebanon a reliable partner,” he added. The premier said Lebanon also plans to become an active member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Salam also lamented the fact that Lebanon has been without a head of state since May 2014 and that Parliament won’t be able to legislate after the normal cycle ends in four days.

Meanwhile, Wang Zhengwei, chairperson of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said that China is looking forward to strengthening economic and trade ties with the Arab world.

He also called on all Arab countries to take part in the economic belt of the Silk Road.

“Trade between China and the Arab world showed a great improvement in the past few years and we hope to be able to expand this cooperation in the coming years,” he said.

Zhengwei’s comments were echoed by Mohammad Choucair, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, who said that the Arab world is the seventh trading partner for China.

“Trade exchange between the two sides exceeded $300 billion in 2014. This is why it is important to draft a common strategy to improve these ties and create sustainable cooperation between these countries,” he said.

Likewise, Yu Ping, vice president of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, emphasized the need to enhance Arab-Chinese relations on all levels while saying that the Arab world has a very strategic location and hence it is a strategic partner in the economic belt of the Silk Road.

“China and the Arab world are both going through a very important reform period and there exists common interests between the two sides,” he added.

Meanwhile, Adnan Kassar, president of the General Union of chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture for Arab countries, said that the forum was very important because it focused on reactivating the old Silk Road while expanding it to in order to meet the demands of the 21st century.

He said Lebanon could play a leading role due its strategic location.

“This will open new horizons for further strategic economic cooperation and generate mutual benefits,” Kassar said.

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