By Hussein Mahmoud Ragab Elkabany and Firdevs Yuksel
CAIRO (AA) – The Arab League and China agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency on the basis of mutual interest and experience sharing, a joint statement announced on Thursday.
According to the joint statement issued after the Arab-China Cooperation Conference in Egypt's capital Cairo, which is currently running between Nov. 5 and 8, the Arab Union and China agreed to strengthen cooperation in electricity, natural gas and renewable energy.
Both parties agreed to strengthen cooperation for energy efficiency and support small and medium-sized institutions working in this area. They also decided to increase energy security and reduce the environmental impact of energy consumption, according to the statement.
"The importance of strengthening mutual cooperation is emphasized by the fact that Arab countries have about half of the world's oil reserves and China has modern technologies in oil exploration, transportation, refining and manufacturing," the statement read.
Arab countries are the most important source of crude oil for Beijing.
In 2016, the bilateral trade volume between Arab countries and China totaled $171 billion. China's exports to the Arab countries accounted for $101 billion, while the volume of Arab countries' exports to China was $70 billion.
Beijing, in its efforts to attain a more prominent global role, launched 'Belt and Road' initiative (BRI), which aims at creating trade routes and relations from China to deep in Europe similar to Silk Road. China invested billions of dollars and promised to pour more to mainly infrastructure, transport and other projects to link the destination countries to its trade centers.
The cooperation with the Arab countries is in line with its policy of projecting power and creating clout trough direct and indirect investments.
– China's great investment in Middle East
In recent years, Beijing has boosted cooperation with Arab countries given the important role they play in BRI. Arab countries, as natural partners of the BRI, link several countries. Therefore, the region is critical to the BRI’s success and in order to contribute to the region’s stability, China puts emphasis on its development.
According to international media, Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Beijing Summit in July in which 21 Arab countries participated, pledged a package of $20 billion in loans, and about $106 million in financial aid, as part of what he called an "oil and gas plus" model to spur economic growth in the region.
Xi also underlined at the summit that Beijing sought to increase cooperation in the field of renewable energy and hydrocarbons.