The Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa, pointed to the opportunities to strengthen and diversify trading links with China in a speech today. Highlighting figures published by McKinsey forecasting that trade flows between China and the Middle East are set to climb to between $350 million and $500 million by 2020, Shaikh Mohammed argued that the trading relationship between the region and China, which is heavily reliant on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), will move on from a broadly consumer-based and transactional relationship. Looking at how the relationship could develop, Shaikh Mohammed said: “I believe this relationship will shift further to one where investments predominate, whether it is through pure finance or in human capital and services. These activities require a greater commitment, but with that they will bring substantial mutual benefits over the long term.” China is currently the third largest non-GCC market for Bahrain exports while it is the second largest importer into the Kingdom of Bahrain. In his speech, Shaikh Mohammed discussed the development and diversification of Bahrain’s economy over the past ten years, emphasising the continuing business fundamentals its economy offered. Recognised as the most diversified economy in the Gulf and the most liberal one in the region, Shaikh Mohammed pointed to Bahrain’s central role as a gateway for China to the Gulf’s trillion dollar market, which is set to double by 2020. Acknowledging the unrest that has occurred across the region, the speech asserted that long-term prospects were strong, not least because of the young age profile and improving levels of education in the Middle East, as well as the commitments made by governments across the region for significant investments in economic and social infrastructure. Concluding the address, Shaikh Mohammed said: “Accounting for its position as a bridge point between East and West, I can only see the relationship between the Arab World and China growing. And this will occur above and beyond the importance of oil to trade and economic co-operation. “In short, good trade relations between China and the Arab world are in our mutual interest. Through more diverse and deeper interdependence we will bring greater growth to our markets.” The address took place at the ‘New China-Arab trade cooperation outlook’ session at the China-Arab International Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, organised by the FT Chinese. It was the third speaking engagement of the visit, following speeches to the Arab delegation heads on Tuesday 20th September and the summit meeting of the China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum on Wednesday 21st September.