Prospects for two-way trade between the UAE and China remain bright despite a cloud of gloomy global economic sentiment cast by Washington’s trade war with Beijing, according to HSBC UAE CEO Abdul Fattah Sharaf.

“The fast-paced trade growth between China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a standout example of what can happen when countries collaborate,” Sharaf said.

Bilateral trade between the two countries hit $53 billion last year, a 17 per cent increase on 2017, and is forecast to double over the next decade.

245% Increase in Chinese tourists in the third quarter of last year.

“That this is happening at a time of rising trade tensions and protectionism elsewhere in the world is a true indication of what can happen in an environment that supports inward investment, entrepreneurship and is focused on the future. We are seeing results across a wide range of sectors,” Sharaf said on the sidelines of “The Future of Trade: The Middle East Pivots to Asia” conference.

Chinese property investors are now among the top four foreign nationalities who invest in the Emirate of Dubai. According to industry research, the UAE saw a 245 per cent increase in Chinese tourists in the third quarter of last year and double-digit annual growth is forecast until 2022, and the number of UAE businesses seeking to expand into China is also an upward trend.

HSBC’s Navigator: Made for China survey says that nearly half of UAE businesses already doing business with China plan to grow sales there in the next three to five years. A further 10 per cent of UAE companies yet to enter the Chinese market will prioritise expansion in the country.

“The attraction of the UAE is not surprising. Ambitious economic transformation agendas are driving the diversification and development of economies across the Middle East, creating millions of new jobs and new consumers with new wealth to invest and spend. The UAE is at the forefront of this shift,” Sharaf said.

What makes it more promising still is that the UAE is a key connection point for China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), he added.

“This is an area where we expect to see significant growth only to be boosted by Dubai’s Silk Road strategy that will seek to develop the Emirate’s logistics sector as it cements its status as a strategic link in global trade,” Sharaf said.

By 2030, over half of all BRI-related projects are anticipated to be funded by private capital, multilateral banks and foreign governments. The UAE and the Middle East have certainly been playing their part.

As of December 2018, an estimated $3.5 trillion worth of projects were planned across the region, of which 640 billion were from the UAE.

With the vast number of proactive policy developments to facilitate even greater trade and foreign investment, China and its corporates have been quick to pay attention and remain at the forefront of delivering many of these.