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Expo 2020 Dubai to be China's grand stage

Khaleej Times 2019-08-22 23:57:02

Preparations for Expo 2020 Dubai are in full swing and it remains committed to support China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which will be showcased in front of millions of visitors from around the globe.

Recent visits to Beijing by the UAE's leadership - His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in April; and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, last month - have underlined how both countries are global trade partners crucial to each other's ambitions.

Expo 2020 will be the largest celebration of Chinese culture and ambition ever held outside of China itself. The world's second-largest economy will use its pavilion at the event to highlight Dubai's strategic importance to its mega-ambitions. China will build one of the largest country pavilions at Expo 2020 on over 4,000 sqm of space, which will be shaped like a lantern and carry interactive and immersive exhibits showcasing the country's forward looking ambitions.

Several businesses from the UAE have made a mark in China. Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, said: "The strong growth and development in China in terms of quality and economic growth have influenced the whole world."

Alabbar made that statement recently when Emaar signed up for an $11 billion mega-project with Beijing Daxing International Airport, which is planned to be completed in 10 years.

The project will include residential and leisure facilities. The company has also announced that it will open an office in Beijing, in an attempt to expand its business activities in China. Alabbar also urged for "looking East" for business opportunities, instead of what he said was the norm, the "North and West".

The BRI, which is a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, spans 69 countries making up 60 per cent of the world's population and 40 per cent of its GDP of roughly $21 trillion. It has already led to $460 billion in investment in countries along its route.

Its promise is echoed in the Chinese pavilion's theme, 'Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind - Innovation and Opportunity', closely aligned with the Expo's own theme, 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'.

UAE-China cooperation will see a number of exhibitions and conferences during Expo 2020 that will showcase the BRI and the potential of the $410 billion joint UAE-China fund.

The first sign of that investment was how Shanghai-based investors have committed to organise the world's largest blockchain festival during Expo 2020 at the Dubai Exhibition Centre. Expo 2020 will help showcase China as it has never been seen before with the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

China's bilateral ties with the UAE date back to 1984 and the relationship is thriving, demonstrated by the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the UAE in 2018 - the first by a Chinese head of state in 28 years - and the signing of a number of strategic partnership agreements. The UAE maintains an embassy in Beijing and a consulate-general in Hong Kong while China has an embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate-general in Dubai.

The UAE is a global trade, transport and finance hub offering China a gateway to key markets. Between 2013 and 2017, UAE exports to China grew by 22 per cent while the UAE's non-oil exports achieved a 33 per cent growth during the same period, which included goods such as plastic raw materials and products, chemicals, copper, aluminium, iron, mineral ores, ethylene polymers and propylene.

UAE-based Danube, which has business ties with China over a decade now, is very optimistic of trade ties between two nations.

Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman Danube Group, said: "Expo 2020 Dubai will be a fantastic platform for China to display its Belt and Road Initiative and Dubai will be the gateway to the global investors to display the same. Both nations have bolstered ties in various fields like energy, technology, oil, construction and infrastructure among other key sectors. With less than 14 months away, the mega event will open doors to global community and this will only bolster the UAE's ties with the world."

During the Expo 2020 period, travellers from China are most likely to come to the UAE in February 2020 and March 2020. Chinese tourists are already the fourth-largest source of visitors to Dubai, with over 850,000 visiting in 2018. The growth was accelerated by Chinese visitors as they were being able to obtain a visa on arrival since 2016. A 21 per cent increase in Chinese arrivals to the GCC is expected by 2021, rising to 2.5 million visitors annually.

Kamal Vachani, group director of Al Maya Group, said: "The UAE is strongly committed to boost its ties with China and offices of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Dubai Exports is a testimony itself of the same. The businesses today on both sides are connected with the presence of these offices. During the recent visit of the leadership, businesses did network and explored opportunities in various fields like adoption of latest technologies and exports."

- sandhya@khaleejtimes.com

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