YINCHUAN, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Trade between China and Arab countries managed to maintain a robust growth despite the global economic downturn and unrest in West Asia and North Africa.
Chinese-Arab trade will continue to grow, said commerce authorities and scholars attending the ongoing five-day China-Arab States Expo in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
According to statistics released by China's Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade between China and Arab nations in 2012 reached 222.4 billion U.S. dollars, up 12 times from 2002. Arab nations have become China's sixth-largest trade partner, with last year's bilateral trade growth rate hitting 13.5 percent.
In the first half of 2013, trade between China and Arab nations continued to grow, reaching 115.0 billion U.S.dollars, up 3 percent year on year.
"The continued growth was partly because of trade complementarity between China and Arab countries. For example, China's major oil imports were from the Arabian Gulf region," said Yang Fuchang, ex-vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Meanwhile, in 2012, the non-oil trade between China and Arab nations also reached 119.1 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for more than half of the total trade volume. This shows that bilateral trade cooperation is growing more diversified and the trade structure is also improving," said Yang.
"More Chinese products with high-tech elements were exported to Arab nations. Cars, electronic devices made in China were gradually being accepted and liked by Arabian consumers," said Li Xiaobing, deputy chief of the Department of Western Asian and African Affairs of the Ministry of Commerce said during a discussion of the Expo.
"In 2012, mechanical, electrical and high-tech products accounted for 57 percent of China's total export volume to Arab countries," Li said.
At the same time, the growing number of cooperation platforms, such as the China-Arab States Expo, also increased the convenience of bilateral trade, said Li.
On the second day of the China-Arab States Expo, a total of 158 contracts worth about 260 billion yuan (42 billion U.S.dollars) were signed.
The contracts involve cooperation in energy and chemicals, new materials, equipment manufacturing, halal food, infrastructure, logistics, culture and tourism between China and Arab countries as well as Muslim regions, said Liu Hui, chairman of the regional government.
Fifty-one agreements were signed at the expo on Monday between China and foreign countries with a total contract volume of 98.1 billion yuan, of which 31 were signed with Arab countries with a contract volume of 66.5 billion yuan.
The five-day event, a key platform to promote the relationship between China and Arab states, kicked off on Sunday in the regional capital city of Yinchuan.
As to how to further improve China-Arab trade, Zhu Weilie, director of Center for China-Arab States Cooperation Forum Studies said, "Though the trade growth is fast, there is still room for improvement. The two sides should enhance mutual trust to improve communication in political, economic and cultural fields."
"Chinese companies should also learn more about Arab countries' investment plans, and improve cooperation with Arab counterparts in infrastructure and new energy," Zhu said.