State-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced its finance minister held successful talks with Chinese vice trade minister over possible joint ventures in petrochemicals and banking on Tuesday. The moves are being seen as part of a wider Chinese push into the oil exporting Gulf.
Trade officials from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – also held their first joint meeting with Chinese trade officials in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday to increase trade with Beijing, SPA added.
“The meeting agreed to continue to push forward economic and trade relations between the GCC and the Republic of China,” state news service said.
China is trying to secure more oil and gas supplies from Arab states in the Gulf amid tightening US-led sanctions on Iran.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Saudi Arabia In January in a bid to secure contracts to Saudi Arabia’s huge oil and gas resources and announce investment accords with the world’s biggest oil producer.
Chinese vice trade minister Li Jin Zhao is currently visiting the Arab Kingdom to negotiate deals between Gulf countries and China on trade cooperation and met 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 Aramco signed a $10bon deal with China’s Sinopec during Wen’s visit in January 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 explore the vast, uninhabited desert in Saudi Arabia’s southeast for gas and other natural resources.
Some analysts believe the kingdom wants to keep a firm grip on its wells that pump around 10 million bpd of crude oil.