Participants in the Fourth China-Arab States Expo talk before the event's opening ceremony in Yinchuan, the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, on Thursday. (Photo by Wu Xiaoyu / For China Daily)
China hopes to explore more ways to enhance development of the strategic partnership with Arab states, President Xi Jinping said on Thursday.
He made the remark in a congratulatory letter to the Fourth China-Arab States Expo, which opened on Thursday in Yinchuan, the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
Xi said the expo will offer a beneficial platform for the two sides to deepen pragmatic cooperation and push forward high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Following the trend of the times and respective development needs, China and Arab states have in recent years made joint efforts in advancing the construction of the Belt and Road and achieved fruitful results, Xi said in the letter.
Both sides should use the expo as an opportunity to better benefit people from both sides, he said. The biennial expo was initiated in 2013.
During the eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum held in Beijing in July last year, the two sides agreed to establish a future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development.
The expo, which runs through Sunday, features trade fairs and forums on infrastructure, healthcare, high technology, modern agriculture, logistics, tourism, digital economy and industrial cooperation, said Liu Kewei, vice-chairman of the Ningxia regional government.
Boosted by growth momentum such as BRI development and intensified commercial and people-to-people exchanges, trade between China and the Arab states totaled $244.3 billion in 2018, up 28 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
In addition to jointly supporting multilateralism, China has conducted several rounds of free trade negotiations with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and completed the first round of talks with Palestine in January on developing a free trade zone in Ramallah, said Qian Keming, vice-minister of commerce.
He said China and Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also set up specialized work groups to promote trade liberalization and resolve other economic issues in a timely manner.
Apart from growing trade activities, Saudi Aramco announced in February that it would invest $10 billion to develop a fully integrated petrochemical complex in Panjin, Liaoning province.
The project will include a 300,000-barrel per day capacity refinery with a 1.5-million-metric ton per year ethylene cracker. The company will supply up to 70 percent of the crude feedstock for the complex, which is expected to be operational in 2024.
Sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and the Ningxia regional government, this year's event brought together around 12,600 participants from regional organizations, chambers of commerce, associations and companies from 89 countries and regions.
Xinhua contributed to this story.