HONG KONG, 18th May, 2016 (WAM) — by Rasha Abubaker Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, and his accompanying delegation, today participated in the opening of the Belt and Road Summit, being held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibitions Centre.

The two-day event is expected to attract at least 2,000 investors, service providers, project owners and operators from ASEAN countries and many other economies along the Belt and Road, to explore and tap into new markets and opportunities in China.

The 28 strong UAE delegation includes a number of senior officials and representatives from the public and private sectors, including Juma Al Kait, Assistant Under-Secretary for Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Economy, Saed Al Awadi, CEO of Dubai Export Development Corporation, Hani Rashid Al Hamli, Secretary-General of the Dubai Economic Council, Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai Investment Development Agency, and Jamal Al Jarwan, Secretary-General of UAE Companies Investing Abroad Council.

The event was officiated by C.Y. Leung, GBM, GBS, JP, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Vincent H.S. Lo, GBS, JP, Chairman, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and John C. Tsang, GBM, JP, Financial Secretary, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In addition, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DP World was selected to serve as member of a select group of Honorary Advisors at the summit.

In his opening speech, Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, welcomed guests on behalf of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government, praising the wide attention the Belt and Road Initiative has drawn from the international community.

“The Belt and Road Initiative responds to the call of the time for world peace, and meets the need of all countries for faster development,” he said.

A major aim of the Silk Road Initiative, which was launched by Chinese President, Xi Jinping in 2013, is to boost China’s political ties and reduce barriers to trade and investment with other countries. It joins and builds on the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

“In history, the ancient Silk Road was not only a route of trade, but a path of friendship that facilitated dialogue and mutual learning between civilisations,” Dejiang said.

In his keynote speech, the UAE Minister spoke about UAE-China trade, economic and investment relations and ways of strengthening trade cooperation between the two countries using the Silk Road Initiative.

“The Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative and the accompanying Maritime Silk Road Project are important platforms that challenge us to consolidate resources and experiences, identify and address key issues, and agree on specific paths for ensuring mutual growth and development,” he said.

The minister added, “The UAE fully supports these objectives as part of our firm commitment to preserve our strong friendship and partnership with the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong.”

Al Mansouri went on to say that trade is a vital pillar of the UAE economy, which has maintained the top rank on the world trade map, ranking 16th globally in commodity exports and making it the most important market for merchandise imports in the MENA region, according to the World Trade Organisation Report in 2015.

He added that China is a very important trade partner for the UAE and that bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$70 billion in 2015.

“China’s exposure to the world has grown dramatically over the last decade and its trade with the UAE has risen in tandem. Our position as the Middle East and Africa’s major re-export hub has contributed significantly to this strong and growing trade relationship,” the minister explained.

Furthermore, the UAE is currently Hong Kong’s largest trade partner of export, re-export and import markets in the Middle East, with non-oil trade between both sides, including trade from free zones, surging from US$5.8 billion in 2011 to more than US$15.9 billion in 2015.

Mr. Al Mansouri also said that the UAE offers enormous potential as a gateway to 2.2 billion consumers in the Middle East region and a solid base for Chinese businesses to tap into European and African markets. “We are located along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor that passes through the CIS region,” he pointed out.

In addition to its physical location and infrastructure benefits, the UAE has a sound financial infrastructure to support large trade transactions, said the minister. “There are several commercial and economic synergies between the UAE and Hong Kong which can be leveraged under the umbrella of the “Belt and Road Initiative” to achieve faster and more comprehensive growth.

“Both sides can play significant roles in this initiative as international financial centres, and serve as a platform for overseas investments, as well as trading, logistics and services hubs. Closer links between both sides will help companies in both our countries leverage strategic advantages as they emerge along these routes,” he added.

The minister also noted that the UAE is particularly interested in engaging in more dialogue on bilateral development of a variety of vital sectors like technology, renewable energy, industry, and SMEs, all of which are priorities under the UAE Vision 2021 development agenda.

On the side-lines of the visit, the Minister of Economy will hold a number of meetings with senior officials of the Hong Kong and the Chinese governments to discuss opportunities for bilateral cooperation.