Joint efforts against pandemic serve as springboard for diversified investments

China and the United Arab Emirates have forged an even closer and more diversified partnership as a result of their joint fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the UAE is opening its doors to more investment from China in areas of innovation and agricultural technology, Abu Dhabi’s top envoy to Beijing said.

Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri, the UAE ambassador to China, said the two countries have displayed stronger solidarity and been cooperating at a higher level as they work together to contain the pandemic.

He notes that China National Pharmaceutical Group, also known as Sinopharm, has partnered with Emirati company Group 42 in the global phase III trials of its COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 31,000 volunteers in the UAE have been participating in clinical trials of the vaccine, and the UAE government has approved an emergency use of the vaccine to protect its frontline medical workers.

High-level officials, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE, have also received the vaccine from China. Such top-level participation reflected the UAE’s trust and confidence in Chinese-led medical innovations, Al Dhaheri said.

“The ongoing communication between both countries, including in leadership at the highest level, has also shown how close we are to each other in the good days and bad days,” he said.

With China’s support, the Persian Gulf nation was able to build its largest testing center for COVID-19, enabling quicker test results and greater efficiency.

The UAE ambassador applauded China’s economic recovery from the fallout of the pandemic, saying: “China’s prosperity not only benefits its only residents, but also the world”.

“It is very positive to see China’s economic growth, and this will support the world economy into the direction of recovery next year,” he said. “As China’s economic performance improves, the international community will enjoy greater opportunities for trade and investment.

“Sound measures and steps have been taken here in China to overcome the challenge of the pandemic on the economy, and the recovery is a great testament to such achievements.”

Emerging sectors

Al Dhaheri expressed the Gulf country’s commitment to opening up to foreign investment, including from China, as the nation seeks to beef up its competitiveness in emerging sectors.

He gave the example of Sense-Time Group, a Chinese unicorn in the field of artificial intelligence, which set up a hub for research and development in Abu Dhabi last year. A unicorn is a market term for a startup worth at least $1 billion.

“Moving forward, Chinese companies will have more opportunities to invest in the UAE, particularly in innovative sectors such as artificial intelligence and agricultural technology,” Al Dhaheri said.

With China shifting to a development pattern known as dual circulation, in which domestic circulation is the mainstay with the domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other, Al Dhaheri said the UAE is ready to actively engage with this new strategy. By doing so, this would help the two sides to achieve a target of increasing bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2030.

The UAE is China’s second-largest trading partner in the Arab world, and its largest export market within that region. Bilateral trade reached $48.67 billion in 2019.

China’s dual-circulation strategy focuses on international trade as a core component of sustainable growth,” Al Dhaheri said. “We welcome this approach, and foresee many areas of future growth in food sustainability, logistics, energy security, and international development assistance.”

The Gulf nation was among the first countries to sign an agreement on the joint building of the Belt and Road Initiative with China, and the UAE envoy highlighted the role of the BRI in leading the regional economic recovery.

He stressed the strong competitiveness of the UAE’s aviation network, which will contribute to the success of the BRI.

“The UAE has become an important gateway for China to enter West Asia and North Africa, with over 60 percent of China’s trade with the Middle East now transiting through the UAE,” Al Dhaheri said. “And we will continue and deepen logistics cooperation, ensuring a pathway to prosperity for our nations and the world.”