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China eyes Bahrain for free-trade deal; visa waivers possible

The Daily Tribune | 6 June 2024

China eyes Bahrain for free-trade deal; visa waivers possible

by Ashen Tharaka

China is exploring the possibility of signing a separate Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bahrain while continuing its efforts to finalise a comprehensive FTA with the entire Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The Chinese government also expressed interest in granting visa exemptions to Bahraini citizens holding ordinary passports.

These developments were revealed by the Chinese Ambassador to Bahrain, H.E. Ni Ruchi, at a press conference held at the embassy to discuss the outcomes of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s state visit to China.

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, HM the King paid a state visit to China from May 29 to 31. He also attended the opening ceremony of the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum.

Economic and trade ties

Ambassador Ni highlighted the growing economic and trade relationship between the two countries. Discussions during the meetings focused on oil and gas exports, including refining oil in Bahrain.

The possibility of constructing a second bridge connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia was another key topic of discussion.

The joint statement emphasises China and Bahrain’s willingness to continue collaborating on the Belt and Road Initiative. This collaboration will focus on areas such as infrastructure construction, economic and trade relations, investment, finance, new energy, and high technology.

“This will promote development and prosperity for both countries,” the Ambassador said.

Shared stance on Palestine issue

During the high-level meetings, President Xi has emphasised that China and Bahrain share a common position on the Palestinian issue. China appreciates the unified voice of the Arab League on this issue and is willing to work with Bahrain and other Arab countries to promote an early, comprehensive, just, and lasting solution. “We expressed our voice at the 16th May Arab summit,” the Ambassador said.

“China supports Arab countries on the Palestinian issue and advocates for a large-scale peace summit.” China supports Palestine’s bid for full membership of the United Nations and a two-state solution for resolving the Palestinian issue, he added.

Bilateral agreements signed

During the visit, the two leaders witnessed the signing of eight bilateral cooperation agreements in areas like investment, health, news, space exploration, e-commerce, the digital economy, and industrial development.

These agreements represent fruitful results and point towards a promising future for China-Bahrain cooperation. China reiterated its firm support for Bahrain in safeguarding its sovereignty, security, and stability. It also resolutely opposes any external interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs.

Increased air traffic

Highlighting the importance of the first direct flight service from Bahrain to Guangzhou city, the Ambassador said, “On the day HM King Hamad arrived in China on May 29, the first Gulf Air flight from Shanghai to Bahrain arrived successfully, with tickets fully booked.”

He added, “Over 90% of the passengers were Chinese, and most of them were visiting Bahrain for the first time.”

Focus of Ministerial Meeting

The ministerial meeting, held for the first time following the successful China-Arab States Summit, aimed to implement the leaders’ decisions and build a China-Arab community with a shared future.

The meeting adopted the Beijing Declaration and an action plan for 2024 to 2026. This plan focuses on strengthening political, economic, social, and development cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including investment, infrastructure, energy, science and technology, and culture with Bahrain.

 source: The Daily Tribune