During a visit to the Persian Gulf countries last month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for the conclusion of negotiations for a free trade agreement between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. In an email interview, Jean-Francois Seznec, a visiting associate professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, discussed the proposed China-GCC free trade agreement.
WPR: How has trade between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries evolved over the past decade?
Jean-Francois Seznec: Trade between the GCC and China has grown to about $90 billion in 2010 from $10 billion 10 years ago. China imports about 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil from the GCC countries, but increasingly it also imports fertilizers and basic chemicals, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Of course, oil is vital to China’s growth, but so are the chemicals it brings in from the GCC to finish and package the products it sells worldwide. In turn China has become the largest supplier of finished goods to the Gulf, from TVs to consumer products.