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Coming closer: Bahrain and China develop their partnership

In the latest stage of a long-running initiative to promote mutual commercial opportunities with the world’s second-biggest economy and its third-biggest exporter, Bahrain participated in the China International Fair for Investment & Trade (CIFIT), held in Xiamen 8-11 September. Our regional contribution was well recognised, with Bahrain being the first Middle East state named as ‘Guest Country of Honour’.
The Kingdom’s presence at CIFIT took place against the backdrop of a high-level Bahraini business roadshow. Covering China’s key commercial centres, including Beijing, the roadshow aimed to strengthen further our fast-developing diplomatic and economic ties with China, and focused on Bahrain’s advantages in high-potential sectors such as financial services, tourism, ICT, manufacturing and logistics.
Looking backwards, working forwards
China and Bahrain have been trading for thousands of years along the original Silk Road. Goods as varied as pearls, dates, silk and musk were once common imports and exports.
Today, we are linked with China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a key part of its ‘One Belt, One Road’ vision. Bahrain and the Arab world are important centres on this route, which aims to encourage trade relations among 60 nations and around 4.4 billion people.
In 2014, the two countries celebrated 25 years of active bilateral relations in the modern era and held a successful business roadshow that led to a substantial number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) being signed. The roadshow followed the official visit by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to China.
Leading Chinese companies have already set up in Bahrain in order to access the US $1.6 trillion Gulf and wider MENA market with its rapidly expanding affluent populations. These include China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, China CommService, Huawei, Bank of China, Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Co. Ltd, Daily Wealth Limited, ChinaMex, Wuhan Lingyun Building Decoration Engineering Co and CPIC.
Organisations such as these choose Bahrain for a wealth of reasons, including its unrivalled Gulf access, ease of set-up, business freedom and lack of bureaucracy.
And the results are evident: Chinese imports into Bahrain are growing 30% year on year. As of 2014, non-oil trade between China and Bahrain stood at nearly US $2 billion. In addition, no fewer than 1,000 Chinese people currently live in Bahrain.
Bringing the Silk Road to life at CIFIT
China and Bahrain have something else in common: the red colour of our national flags. For CIFIT, we created a striking visual device that perfectly reflects the Maritime Silk Road – an elegant streamer.
Bahrain’s Maritime Silk Road theme:
Bahrain: connecting China to the Middle East on the Maritime Silk Road
The idea translated into this short animation. It was also explored in posters that highlighted the key advantages of investing in Bahrain around the exhibition venue and in graphics on the stunning 1,000 m2 Bahrain Pavilion. This was organised by the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) in cooperation with strategic partners Tamkeen, UNIDO, Bahrain Airport Company, Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA), Batelco, National Bank of Bahrain (NBB), Kuwait Finance House, and Al Salam Bank.

Ready to receive visitors: the Bahrain Pavilion

Excellent results
Bahrain intended to raise its profile in China, and succeeded. At the Bahrain Pavilion, Bahraini businesspeople and government officials met their Chinese counterparts looking to expand into the Gulf. In parallel, traffic to the EBD’s website has soared, indicating a high level of interest.
As for the roadshow, it resulted in 15 MoUs (Memoranda of Understanding) and LoIs (Letters of Intent) being signed by Bahraini and Chinese organisations.
Summing up
Commenting on the roadshow, Mr. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “Bahrain has been a trading outpost along the old Silk Road connecting the Gulf to the world for thousands of years, and the history of this long trading relationship between Bahrain and China can be found at many of the archaeological sites around the Kingdom.
“Today Bahrain aims to continue this cooperation and strongly supports China’s vision of ‘One Belt One Road,’ and offers unique opportunities for Chinese companies looking to access the Gulf market. In Bahrain Chinese investors will find the freest economy in the Middle East and an established financial and commercial hub for the region.”