Building on the successful visit by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa to Beijing in September 2013 and the two nations celebrating 25 years of bilateral relations earlier this year, a high-level business delegation from Bahrain has begun a 10 day visit to China.
The visit aims to strengthen economic and trade ties between the two countries. The delegation, organised by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and led by Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the EDB includes members of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), businessmen and businesswomen representing Bahrain’s business sector.
The delegation will first attend the prestigious China Overseas Investment Fair in Beijing, organised by the China Overseas Development Association (CODA), where a Bahrain Pavilion will showcase the Kingdom’s favourable business environment to Chinese and international investors.
In addition, the EDB will host an ‘Invest in Bahrain’ Seminar, the first in a series planned for each stop in the 10 day Roadshow. The delegation will then travel to Guangzhou before visiting Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In each location, the EDB will engage in high level talks with Chinese officials, private sector leaders and Chinese businesses looking to access the Gulf market. A number of MoUs will also be signed to further strengthen economic and trade ties.
Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the EDB said:
"China and Bahrain already have a strong trade relationship that dates back two thousand years to the first Silk Road. In fact, Chinese goods and produce make up the largest of non-oil imports to Bahrain totaling more than US$1 billion. Bahrain strongly supports China’s vision of ‘One Belt One Road’ to build a community of shared interests between the Arab world and China. By working together we can take this vision forward and help businesses to take advantage of the fast-growing GCC market."
Othman Alrayes, First Vice Chairman, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) said:
"Strategically located at the heart of the Middle East, Bahrain is ideally placed as a gateway to the GCC market helping Chinese investors access the US$1.6 trillion Gulf market. In Bahrain businesses will find a sophisticated regulatory environment, excellent transport connections, low costs and competitive taxes, and the most educated workforce in the region."
Bahrain’s open economy, favourable business conditions and strong economic fundamentals have been endorsed by the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, which saw the Kingdom ranked 13th in the world and first in the Middle East and North Africa. In July 2014 a new visa policy was announced that allows nationals of more than 60 countries to obtain a visa on arrival, bringing the total number of countries with this option to nearly 100, giving Bahrain one of the most open visa arrangements in the region. As a recent addition to the list, Chinese nationals are able to receive a visa for Bahrain on arrival.
A large number of Chinese businesses have already established operations in Bahrain as a means of accessing the wider Gulf market, which is now worth US$1.6 trillion and expected to reach US$2 trillion by 2020. Leading Chinese companies with offices or facilities in Bahrain include: Huawei, Bank of China, China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, and CPIC. In 2011, total bilateral trade between Bahrain and China, excluding hydrocarbons, reached US$1.7billion. Machinery and mechanical equipment led Chinese imports to Bahrain in 2011 followed by’’ minerals while hydrocarbons led Bahrain’s produce exported to China in the same year.
The delegation includes: Bahrain EDB; Central Bank of Bahrain; Bahrain Airport Company; Mumtalakat, the Bahrain sovereign wealth fund; Tamkeen, the Bahrain labour fund; Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Citi Bank; Al Amal Group; AJM Kooheji Group; amongst others.