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Kuwait builds strategic partnership with China
July 14, 2018, 2:16 pm

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah's visit last week to China was of special significance in that it established a strategic partnership between the two countries while further enhancing bilateral relations and launching new prospects in cooperation between the two friendly nations.

Speaking on arrival in China on Saturday, 7 July, His Highness the Amir said Kuwait and China maintain strong political and economic relations, and his China visit "demonstrates the determination to strengthen such ties."  Praising the significant role played by Chinese enterprises in the development of Kuwait, he urged Chinese business and financial institutions to set up industrial and high-tech parks in northern Kuwait as part of the New Kuwait 2035 strategic development plan. Kuwait’s development master-plan envisions diversifying the economy away from its over-reliance on hydrocarbons and transforming the country into a global trade and financial center that attracts multi-faceted investments.

Welcoming the Amir to China, President Xi Jinping called Kuwait a “tried and true friend” and that “the two countries have always treated each other equally and with sincerity since they forged diplomatic ties 47 years ago.” He urged both countries to enhance alignment of development strategies and expand cooperation in various areas, in addition to reinforcing security and anti-terrorism cooperation, while intensifying people-to-people exchanges.

Kuwait which was the first Arab nation to launch diplomatic relations with China back in 1971, is intent on opening new areas of cooperation between the two nations in various sectors, and on synergizing the country’s strategic New Kuwait 2035 vision with China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Designed as a trade and infrastructure network with a focus on connectivity and cooperation with Eurasian nations, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to link China with Europe on the lines of the ancient Silk Road trade route, while opening-up a new 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road to connect Asia with Africa and beyond.

In the direct talks that His Highness the Amir held with President Jinping, the two leaders spoke about the tremendous progress in bilateral relations and mutual cooperation on a myriad of significant international issues. Emphasizing a mutual desire to take ties to new levels, the two agreed to establish a platform for dialogue as a constant form of engagement. In addition, they agreed to form a joint economic and trade committee with the purpose of easing bilateral trade and investment in order to improve economic ties.

China is the largest source of imports for goods into Kuwait with trade volume breeching US$12 billion in 2017. Kuwait is also the fourth largest crude oil supplier from the Middle-East to China. More than 40 Chinese companies are currently engaged in about 80 projects in Kuwait, mainly in oil, infrastructure, communications and finance.

The two nations also decided to work closely together in various fields from culture and education to healthcare and tourism, in addition to cooperating in the fight against terror. The two sides also hinted at plans to introduce visa free travel between Kuwait and Beijing, and establish a free-trade zone between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council states to better serve the interests of both regions.

During his visit, His Highness the Amir also attended the inauguration of the 8th ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), which was created in 2004 to strengthen ties between Beijing and Arab League member countries. The CASCF aims to promote and develop Arab-Sino relations and cooperation in various fields, including in the Belt and Road initiative. Last year, trade between the Arab-Sino bloc was $191 billion, making China the Arab world’s second biggest trade partner.

In his speech at the CACSF, His Highness the Amir called for “more consultation and coordination” with China due to the “sensitive and critical political, economic and security situations on the international and regional levels.” He said China’s role on the international stage would help tackle challenges facing the Arab and Gulf countries. “A friendly China will assume historical responsibilities, maintain international peace and security, and play a positive and outstanding role,” His Highness noted.

On the sidelines of the three-day visit by His Highness the Amir that ended on 10 July, several agreements and memorandum of agreements were signed between the two sides, including a cooperation agreement between Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and China's ShanDong Refining and Chemical Group to market Kuwaiti crude oil. The agreement aims to further expand the joint investment platform in oil and logistic industries.

It will be remembered that in 2009, during his first state-visit to China, His Highness the Amir had signed a number of deals in education, infrastructure, sports and environment, as well as for the construction of an oil refinery in China. The $9.3 billion Sino-Kuwait integrated refining and petrochemical complex, which is now under construction in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, will on completion be the largest joint-venture refinery complex in China.

When completed in 2020, the project, which is 50 percent owned by Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and 50 percent by Sinopec, the Chinese oil and gas mega-enterprise, is expected to refine 10 million metric tons of crude oil and produce 800,000 metric tons of ethylene annually, and increase the export of Kuwait’s crude oil to China by 500,000 barrels per day.

Reiterating the importance of His Highness the Amir’s visit and his speech at the opening of CASCF, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said the visit was of critical importance to relations between the two countries. He also added the CASCF embodied the vibrant relationship between the Arab world and China.





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