China seeks to tie knot with Arabs to boost trade, energy

May 17 | Updated: May 18 2006, 05:30am hrs
China will host officials from 22 Arab countries in talks to promote cooperation in areas including trade and energy, Chinas foreign ministry said. Representatives from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority have also been invited.

Minister-level officials from the countries and the secretary general of the Arab League, of which the countries are members, will meet with Chinese officials on May 31 and June 1 in Beijing, Zhai Jun, director-general of west Asian and north African affairs at Chinas foreign ministry, said at a briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

Energy cooperation is part and parcel of Chinas cooperation with Arabic countries, Zhai said. China, the worlds second-largest consumer of oil, last year imported about 52 million tons of oil from Arab countries, accounting for more than 40 percent of total oil imports. The country is leading an increase in global demand, encouraging domestic companies to secure oil and gas supplies locally and abroad after prices surged to records.

The meeting will be the second round of ministerial talks in the Sino-Arabic Cooperation Forum. The forum will also discuss stability and peace in the Middle East, Zhai said.

Wooing arabs

Minister-level meeting of Chinese and Arabs will be on May 31 and June 1 in Beijing
Energy cooperation is part and parcel of Chinas cooperation with Arab countries
The forum will also discuss stability and peace in the Middle East

China isnt concerned about possible conflict with the US, the worlds largest oil user, over Chinas growing influence in the Middle East, Zhai said.

The friendly cooperation between China and the Arab world is not targeted at any third party, so we hope no third party will be critical or try to exert any influence on it.

Zhai said China hopes Libya, who received Taiwans President Chen Shui-bian earlier this month, will continue to honor the Beijing governments one-China policy. Chinas wholesale crude oil price rose 27% in April from a year earlier, the central bank said on Tuesday. China Petrochemical Corp., Asias biggest refiner, plans to almost triple oil production from overseas fields by 2010.

Cnooc Ltd., Chinas biggest offshore oil producer, invested $2.7 billion in January to buy stakes in oil fields in Nigeria. PetroChina Co., the nations largest crude producer, paid $4.18 billion to acquire oil assets in Kazakhstan last year. Chinas January-April oil imports rose 17% to 49.2 million tonnes, with the cost of oil shipments surging 55% from a year earlier to $21.4 billion. April imports slowed from the 25% increase recorded in the first quarter of this year, when Chinas spending on crude purchases from abroad jumped 75%.