China, GCC To Boost Trade

High-level ministers from the GCC countries and China have held meetings and decided to increase economic and trade relations between their regions.

China’s vice trade minister and Saudi Arabia’s finance minister held talks over possible joint ventures in petrochemicals and banking on Tuesday, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said, as part of a wider Chinese push into the oil exporting Gulf.

After their first joint meeting with Chinese trade officials, the GCC states agreed at a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday to increase trade with Beijing, SPA said.

“The meeting agreed to continue to push forward economic and trade relations between the GCC and the Republic of China,” state news service SPA said.

China’s increasing dependence on imported oil and gas has fuelled a worldwide drive by its oil companies to acquire assets from Latin America to the Middle East.

In January, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on Saudi Arabia to open its huge oil and gas resources to more Chinese investment during a tour of Gulf oil exporting countries.

Now Chinese vice trade minister Li Jin Zhao is visiting the Kingdom to continue discussions between Gulf countries and China on trade cooperation, meeting Saudi finance minister Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf on Tuesday, SPA reported.

“They discussed bilateral relations between the two countries especially in the promotion of joint investments between the two countries including cooperation in banking and the petrochemical sector,” SPA said.

Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil buyer took its first big step into the Saudi downstream oil industry when Saudi Aramco signed a $10 billion deal with China’s Sinopec during Wen’s visit to build a 400,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) oil refinery in Yanbu.

Riyadh has welcomed foreign partners into its petrochemicals sector and has invited several, including Sinopec, to scour the vast, uninhabited desert in Saudi Arabia’s southeast for gas.

But the kingdom is unlikely to loosen its grip on the wells that pump around 10 million bpd of crude oil.

Meanwhile, Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayan, the president of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, met Hungary’s energy minister, while the Saudi undersecretary for mineral resources discussed investments in mining, SPA said.