Bilateral trade between China and the UAE reached US$11.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, a 16.21 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018, said a top Chinese diplomat.

“China-UAE trade is expected to maintain the momentum of rapid growth throughout 2019 and beyond,” Ni Jian, the Chinese Ambassador to the UAE, told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.

He also said that in the first five months of 2019, the bilateral trade amounted to US$19 billion, up by 11.37 percent, compared to the same period last year, he said.

In 2018, China’s exports to the UAE grew by 3.2 percent to US$29.66 billion and China’s imports from the UAE went up by 32.8 percent to US$16.26 billion, he said, pointing out at the same time that “as China and the UAE use different methods for bilateral trade, the figures from both sides may differ.”

However, he added, “China and the UAE have made solid steps in our cooperation under the ‘Belt and Road’ framework and yielded remarkable achievements. Our cooperation in commodities trade is optimizing, with the UAE maintaining its status as China’s second-largest trading partner and top export market in the Middle East and North Africa region.”

China’s investments over the years in the UAE reached US$9.1 billion in 2017. Chinese Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, in the UAE was worth US$620 million in 2017 alone, the ambassador said.

The US$410 billion China-UAE Joint Investment Fund is operating smoothly, which highlights the practical cooperation between both countries, he said.

“In general, Chinese companies in the UAE have been growing by leaps and bounds, especially at a time when our bilateral relations are thriving and the UAE has become an important partner in the ‘Belt and Road’ cooperation,” he said.

Chinese engineering contracting companies signed new project contracts worth US$7.64 billion in the UAE in 2018, up by 53 percent compared to the previous year, the envoy revealed.

Those companies made revenues to the tune of US$3.61 billion in 2018, a 44.8 percent increase compared to 2017, he said.

There are between 4,000 to 6,000 Chinese companies operating in the UAE, mostly based in Dubai, he said.

According to Dubai Department of Economic Development, 618 new business licenses were issued to Chinese companies in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 22.8 percent, the ambassador pointed out.

By the end of 2018, there were altogether 5,977 effective business licenses for Chinese companies registered in Dubai. About 4,811 of them were limited liability companies, and 4,628 were in the commercial and trade sector, he explained.

“Our financial cooperation is deepening. Our central banks [China and UAE] signed local currency swap agreements,” he said, pointing out the establishment of RMB [Chinese yuan] Clearing Centre and branches of all Big-Four Chinese state-owned banks in the UAE.

Many large Chinese corporations have also stepped up their interest and participation in the UAE market.

Large energy firms such as China National Offshore Oil Corporation, CNOOC, Zhenhua Oil and a state-owned investment company, CITIC, have all set up offices in Abu Dhabi since 2018, while China Machinery Engineering Corporation, CMEC, opened an office in Dubai, the envoy said.

With the inception of more new projects in the UAE, China Railway Construction Corporation, CRCC, China Railway Construction Engineering Group, CRCEG, Power China and China Energy Engineering Corporation, CEEC, are also dispatching more outstanding employees to the UAE market, he said.

China-UAE cooperation in the energy sector is expanding across the value chain – from upstream exploration to downstream refinery, and from stakeholding to service-contracting – Chinese and Emirati energy companies are joining hands to forge a strategic partnership, the diplomat added.

Chinese companies are actively working in railways, airports, seaports, roads, telecommunications and other infrastructure developments in the UAE, making their contributions to regional connectivity, the ambassador concluded.