Key sectors highlighted during strategic business event
In attendance at the Roundtable was HE Tang Weibin, Consul General of the People's Republic of China, government representatives from both Sharjah and China, as well as members of the Chinese Business Council and local Chinese businesspeople. The Roundtable is the latest in a series of recent initiatives by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) to encourage investment from China and, welcoming attendees to the event, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), emphasised the objectives of the gathering - to reinforce existing business ties while nurturing new ones. HE Marwan Al Sarkal emphasised Sharjah's strength as an economic centre, saying: "Sharjah has the most diversified economy in the region, with no single sector contributing more than 20% of the Emirate's GDP. It is also the manufacturing heart of the UAE, with one third of the UAE's total manufacturing activities taking place in Sharjah. This combined with a very healthy SME sector - with more than 45,000 strong small and medium-sized businesses - makes Sharjah a highly competitive investment destination." The Shurooq CEO also highlighted the strong ties between the UAE and China - in the first half of 2013, imports and exports combined jumped almost 14 per cent to AED 78.6bn, after registering close to 40 per cent year-on-year growth over 2012. More specifically, he focused on the fact that bilateral trade between China and Sharjah jumped more than 18 per cent between 2010 and 2012, from AED 3.3bn to more than AED 3.9bn. He further pointed out that this clearly firmly established and growing relationship is further supported by the already strong Chinese business presence in the UAE, remarking that there are currently more than 4,000 Chinese companies operating in the UAE in a diverse range of sectors. Further emphasising the strong relationship between Sharjah and China, Al Sarkal remarked, "It is a relationship that is also been carefully fostered by Sharjah's leader, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who personally welcomed Premier Wen Jiabao when he visited the UAE in 2012. During this visit Premier Wen Jiabao called for strengthening political mutual trust and deepening strategic cooperation between our countries, stating clearly that this "serves our common interests" - a sentiment that His Highness Sheikh Sultan not only shares but continues to proactively support." After his speech, attendees were addresses by HE Tang Weibin and Mr Wang Song, Chairman of the Chinese Business Council, respectively. In his speech, HE Tang Weibin, Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Dubai, lauded the distinguished economic and commercial ties between China and the UAE, and expressed the expectation that the relations will see further development and expansion of avenues of cooperation over the next few years. Wang Song, Chairman of the Chinese Business Council, expressed his profound appreciation the organization of the Sharjah-China Business Roundtable, which will contribute to increasing trade volume between both sides, and attracting Chinese investors to the emirate. This was followed by a short video and a presentation by Al Sarkal, which touched on the four key sectors identified by Shurooq as major areas of potential growth, namely travel and tourism, environment, healthcare, and transport and logistics. He highlighted a number of projects, including Al Jabal Resort - The Chedi Khorfakkan, Sir Bu Nair Island, Mlieha, the Heart of Sharjah, Al Bait Hotel, Al Majaz Waterfront, the Flag Island, the Kalba Eco-tourism project, Al Montazah Park, and Al Hisn Island - Dibba Al Hisn, stating that each of these have been carefully designed to stimulate the local economy, while also providing foreign investors with unique opportunities to capitalise on the phenomenal growth being witnessed in the tourism and leisure sector. Presentations highlighting the numerous investment and business opportunities that Sharjah has to offer in each of these sectors, followed. After a brief overview of the travel and tourism sector, HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), outlined the immense potential that the emirate of Sharjah has in this sector, stating that latest projections show that the emirate's travel and leisure sector is likely to grow from AED1.24 billion this year to AED1.49 billion by 2016. Showcasing the opportunities in Sharjah's logistics sector, Saud Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Director of Commercial Affairs at Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, highlighted Sharjah's unrivalled strategic location, its direct access to both the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, its well-developed air transport and cargo capabilities and the fact that the offers foreign investors and businesses an ideal environment in which to base their operations. On the environmental front HE Khalid Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee'ah, highlighted the fact that his company, together with the Sharjah government, are working together to tackle waste in the region and build a strong waste management infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of leading the emirate of Sharjah to become the first city in the Middle East to achieve Zero-waste-To-Landfill by 2015. He said, "Our aim at Bee'ah is to spearhead the development of sustainable and economically viable solutions for waste management and to thereby drastically reduce Sharjah and by extension the UAE's carbon footprint. With this in mind we are actively seeking partners, technology providers, and investors for a number of sustainable projects in the Middle East." Concluding the presentations, Mr Binu Pisharadi, Commercial Affairs Manager of Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) outlined the array of opportunities available to prospective investors in Sharjah's healthcare and related fields. Stating, "Sharjah's healthcare industry is expected to grow by 9.3% from its current AED 4.59 Billion to AED 6.55 Billion in that year - he stated that this represents a key opportunity for investors wishing to enter the market." The Sharjah-China Business Roundtable concluded with a Q&A session and networking lunch. A number of Chinese businessmen commented that they were impressed by the significant development in Sharjah's various areas, and stressed that this development would encourage them to invest in the emirate, and make the most of facilities provided by the Shurooq and other government entities. They also expressed their wish to strengthen the channels of communication with business leaders in the Emirate, to exchange ideas and views, and achieve greater cooperation between Sharjah and China. Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. The Authority's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the Emirate, evaluate tourism and investment related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects.