SPEECH – Mr. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive

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SPEECH – Mr. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive – Bahrain EDB New Silk Road Development Symposium – Monday 7 th September 2015

Introduction

 Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour to be standing here before you this evening  I would like to thank the organisers of the China International Fair for Investment & Trade for welcoming Bahrain as the guest country of honour for this year’s event, and I’m pleased to be representing the Bahrain Economic Development Board, who are leading a high-level business delegation from the Kingdom  And it feels very appropriate for me to be saying a few words here tonight, as Bahrain has had a relationship with China stretching back thousands of years to the original Silk Road  In fact, maritime trading between the Gulf and China was established as early as the 8 th century AD  Traders from the Gulf were central to creating maritime trade routes that connected the Middle East and China, having pushed east into the Arabian Sea and into the Indian Ocean hundreds of years ago 1

 The history of this long trading relationship between Bahrain and China can be found at many of the archaeological sites around the Kingdom  For example, Chinese pottery is on display at the Bahrain Fort Museum along with other artefacts from around the world, some dating back thousands of years  Along the old Silk Road Bahrain traded pearls, dates, and copper, and imported silk and musk from China. Trade also facilitated the exchange of art, music, and literature

Bahrain – China ties: economic fundamentals

 As for the modern day Silk Road; we will be showcasing during our visit how Chinese businesses can capitalise on Bahrain’s strategic location along the modern route, the new economic corridor envisioned under China’s flagship economic policy ‘One Belt, One Road’ that connects China to Central and West Asia and beyond  Specifically, Bahrain’s delegation will be highlighting investment opportunities in a number of growth sectors in which Bahrain can offer Chinese businesses significant advantages, and which match China’s key overseas foreign direct investment priorities - including financial services, 2

logistics and transportation, retail trade and manufacturing and industry, as well as tourism and ICT  Over the past decade, Bahrain has pursued a broad and deep programme of reforms aimed at recalibrating its economy  In practical terms, this means that there has been a focus on: o Creating an environment where the private sector can thrive – Bahrain’s economy is rated as the freest in the Middle East, with minimal restrictions, sound regulation – with a particularly well regarded financial services sector, low operating costs, a highly competitive taxation system, and 100% foreign ownership allowed in most sectors o We have invested in education and training so that locals are the employees of choice for businesses in the region; and o We have invested in core infrastructure projects which increase economic connectivity and help create jobs  This has been an important factor in the rapidly expanding trade between China and Bahrain – in 2014 non-oil trade stood at US$1.98 billion, up from US$890 million in 2009 3

 And a large number of Chinese businesses are already using Bahrain as the hub for their regional operations, such as Huawei, China Harbour Engineering Company, and Bank of China, taking advantage of its direct access in the region’s largest market, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and its supportive business environment  Furthermore, later this year the Bahrain Dragon City, operated by Chinamex, will open to the public. The Chinese-themed shopping mall will host 500 Chinese businesses looking to raise the profile of Chinese products in the GCC  The development is already over 90% full even before the doors open – and I think this reflects the excitement we have seen in the opportunities within the GCC market

Conclusion

 Bahrain is honoured to be recognised as a vital investment destination along the 21 st Century Maritime Silk Road, granting unrivalled access to the $1.6 trillion Gulf market and direct access to the $750 billion Saudi Arabian economy 4

 And I’m sure this year’s CIFIT event will play an important role in continuing to build economic and political relationships between China and the Gulf region  Thank you very much. 5

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