A high level Bahrain business delegation, organised by the Economic Development Board (EDB), has concluded a successful ten day road show to China. The delegation’s visit resulted in the signing of 15 agreements with Chinese businesses and trade organisations, further strengthening economic and trade ties between the two countries. The EDB also organised two forums to highlight the kingdom’s business environment in Xiamen and Beijing.
The latest visit builds on the historic visit to China by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in September 2013. In 2014, an EDB business delegation visited China and 13 agreements were signed between leading government and private sector organisations from both countries to promote closer economic ties.
Over the course of the 10 days, the delegation visited a number of major commercial centres in China including Xiamen and Beijing. In each location, Bahraini business executives and Government representatives conducted meetings with Chinese officials, private sector leaders and Chinese businesses looking to access the Gulf market.
In addition, the delegation took part in the China International Fair for Investment & Trade (CIFIT) expo, led by His Excellency Zayed R. Alzayani, Minister of Industry and Commerce, at which Bahrain was the first country in the Middle East to be guest country of honour. The Bahrain Pavilion at CIFIT showcased Bahrain’s open business environment, investment opportunities and the advantages Bahrain offers Chinese and other international investors.
The Bahrain Pavilion was organised by the EDB in cooperation with strategic partners Tamkeen, UNIDO, Bahrain Airport Company, ALBA, Batelco, National Bank of Bahrain (NBB), Kuwait Finance House, and Al Salam Bank. Chinese companies Huawei and Chinamex also participated while Bahraini SMEs representing sectors including manufacturing, ICT and tourism, amongst others, were also featured.
Members of the delegation also participated in the China-Arab States Expo, the biennial gathering between China and Arab countries, in Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia autonomous region. Agreements signed during the visit include:
- Three letters of intent signed between the Bahrain EDB and Chinese companies, announcing plans to establish operations in Bahrain to access the fast-growing Gulf market. The companies are: Jinlou Water, World Wide Logistics and Baoshang Bank, an “A” level credit rated bank in China
- The Bahrain EDB also signed four MoUs during the visit, which aim to establish even stronger trade ties and bilateral cooperation between Bahrain and China. MoUs were signed with: China International Investment Promotion Centre- Xiamen; the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT- China); the China Arab International Exchange Centre; and the China Arabia Economic Cultural Exchange Association (CAECEA)
- An agreement was signed between the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade – Fujian (CCPIT-Fujian), to enhance bilateral cooperation
- Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society and the Xiamen Association of Women Entrepreneurs signed a MoU that looks to establish a practical framework for cooperation for the empowerment and entrepreneurship of businesswomen in the private sector in the Kingdom of Bahrain and Xiamen
- Projects Construction Company W.L.L signed a MoU with CMEC, to encourage exploration of development and construction opportunities in the Kingdom. CMEC is to provide project finance while Projects Construction Company will represent the joint venture locally and act as the main contractor for construction projects in Bahrain
- Chinamex signed five MoUs during the visit to China, to provide logistic services to the Bahrain Dragon City, which will open later this year. The agreements will see the companies provide Dragon City with import and export services, the building of an online sales network and the provision of e-commerce services for the tenants. The five companies were: Fujian Quanzhou Dragon City Import & Export Trading Company; Beijing Dragon Commerce Company; China Dragon Mart Information Technology Company; Henan Lotus Flower Company; and xbniao.com
Mr. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB, commented on the conclusion of the roadshow:
“This has been an extremely successful visit, as demonstrated by the announcement that three Chinese businesses will look to establish operations in the Kingdom and the large number of MoUs signed between influential public and private sector Bahraini organisations and their Chinese counterparts.
Mr. Al Rumaihi added: “Huge opportunities can be made possible by closer cooperation between China and the GCC; two of the world’s fastest growing emerging markets. Bahrain has some of the most competitive operating costs in the region, minimal restrictions on foreign investment and ownership and a tried and tested regulatory environment, all of which has created a highly favourable environment for international businesses. The EDB looks forward to assisting many more Chinese companies to set up in Bahrain and take advantage of the benefits on offer here.”
The delegation held high level meetings with Chinese government officials including Fujian Governor Mr. Su Shulin, Shenzhen Governor Mr. Xu Qin and Vice Mayor of Xiamen Madam Ni Chao. They also met with high ranking officials from leading Chinese companies including Air China, China Investment Cooperation, Guangzhou Automobile Cooperation (GAC), China Equity and China Machinery Engineering Cooperation (CMEC), amongst others.
Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf to diversify its economy away from the hydrocarbons industry and has the experience and expertise to add significant value to Chinese businesses in a wide range of sectors, most notably in ICT and financial services. Excellent transport infrastructure and a strategic geographical location also make Bahrain well suited to act as a connecting hub for the region and this is a major draw for manufacturing and logistics companies.
Further, Bahrain welcomed around 10 million visitors in 2014- leading to considerable potential in the retail and hospitality industries. The Bahrain Dragon City, a Chinese-themed shopping mall operated by Chinamex that will host 500 Chinese businesses, will launch by the end of this year and represents the first large-scale retail project undertaken by a Chinese company in the Kingdom.
Moreover, Bahrain hosts the Middle East headquarters of Huawei and was host to the Bank of China’s first-ever Middle East office, the first time a Chinese bank established operations in the region. In addition to many other leading Chinese companies with offices or facilities already established in Bahrain include: China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd; China Comm Service; Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Co. Ltd; Daily Wealth Limited; Wuhan Lingyun Building Decoration Engineering Co; and CPIC.
The EDB has an international office at the Bahrain Embassy in Beijing and in Hong Kong, which provides investors with the necessary support and information about accessing China’s market.