China and Arabs pledge to boost trade

Envoys from China and 22 Arab governments issued a joint pledge on Thursday to expand their annual trade to $100 billion by 2010 as they wrapped up a two-day conference meant to strengthen economic and political ties.

    China and 22 Arab countries agreed to expand annual trade

    Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, signed a two-year plan for the Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum with the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.


    Delegates to the meeting signed an environmental protection plan and a memorandum of understanding for a meeting between Chinese and Arab entrepreneurs. No details were released.


    The two-day forum was taking place as China,

    one of the world's top oil importers,

    scrambles to secure energy for its booming economy, which expanded by 9.9% last year.



    China imported 55.36 million tons of crude oil from Arab countries in 2005, 43.7% of its total oil import, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.


    Focus on oil


    Xinhua said the plan for Sino-Arab co-operation between 2006 and 2008 signed by Li and Moussa included plans for a bilateral meeting to focus on oil issues and "a dialogue mechanism" to promote energy co-operation between the two sides.

    The forum made a pledge to further co-operation on anti-terror efforts, Xinhua said.


    "China and Arab states condemn terrorism of any form and oppose linking up terrorism with certain nationality or religion," Xinhua quoted the forum's joint statement as saying.


    On Wednesday, China's president, Hu Jintao, told the Arab delegates that China wanted to "further develop cooperation in all areas and earnestly promote the rapid development of our continuing friendly ties."


    China's trade with the Arab world has grown tenfold in the past decade, to $51.3 billion, about 40% of which is estimated to be oil-related.


    Flow of goods

    Trade volumes between the two sides could double to as much as $100 billion in 2010 by facilitating the free flow of goods, capital, technology and service, s

    tate councilor Tang Jiaxuan said on Wednesday.


    Moussa said that current trade volumes were "just a beginning" and that the two sides might even reach their $100 billion trade target within "two to three years" if they maintained recent growth levels.


    Among the delegates was Mahmoud al-Zahar, foreign minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.


    Beijing's welcoming of al-Zahar angered Israel, which said he represented a "terrorist government."


    Xinhua quoted al-Zahar as saying Hamas would study an Arab peace initiative supported by China with a "serious and positive attitude."


    Western appeals

    China also echoed Western appeals for al-Zahar's government to renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept "agreements already reached" - conditions set by Israel and those governments for official contact.


    Asked about China's standpoint at a news conference after the forum, Moussa said that Arab countries believe the Palestinians should not be forced to accept any "so-called conditions."


    "The Palestinian issue is about military occupation. It is not a terrorist issue. And it is one that should be solved through negotiations," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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